Review Summary: Get off the bandwagon and put down the handbook.
Back at the turn of the century something remarkable happened to the British music scene. The seemingly impenetrable wave of pop music that had defined the 90’s finally dispersed and a gap in the music scene opened. It was American band The Strokes that provided inspiration for the new wave of indie music to form, leading to acts such as The Libertines and, later, The Killers releasing their debut albums. The critical and commercial success that these albums attained opened a metaphorical floodgate, and now in the back end of the noughties, British music is again suffering from an abundance of acts trying to ride this new wave before it too ultimately disperses.
Boy Kill Boy are a prime example of one of these acts. Hailing from London this four piece create music reminiscent of Hot Fuss
era Killers, with intense synths used in conjunction with a range of pop sensibilities to distract from a somewhat stiff vocal performance. Whilst the premise is clever, the execution on Civilian
leaves a lot to be admired. Truth be told, the band members themselves don’t really do anything wrong. Musically the album is great; smart pop beats with irresistible choruses. Soaring guitars and a tight rhythm section along with an abundance of the aforementioned synthesizer seem to be pretty standard from the band and altogether creates a very tight package.
When all band members are on form, the music is undoubtedly great, with highlights such as Suzie
and Back Again
delivering not only insanely catchy choruses, but also danceable rhythms and a good sense of fun. Unfortunately for Boy Kill Boy, it all gets very old very fast. It becomes apparent very soon into the record that the band lack that creative spark that great bands have, instead just recycling the same general formula with few variants between songs. It seems that Boy Kill Boy have reverted to that tried and tested trend of releasing catchy singles in order to reel in an audience and filling the rest of the album with inferior carbon copies. It is this lack of ambition that kills the album before it has even got going. It is an unfortunate coincidence that this type of dance-floor friendly disco-pop has been done before so many times before that the bar has been raised exceptionally high. This, coupled with the inoffensive nature in which the songs have been structured, means that whilst adequate for a debut album, Civilian
ultimately comes up short.
There are a few tracks where the boys attempt to experiment. The tempo is slowed in both Ivy Parker
and ‘hidden’ track Exit
. The former fails badly, with the slow riffs dragging on and the monotonous tones of Chris Peck even more noticeable amongst the uninspired musicianship on offer. The latter, however, is a late highlight, showing an imagination and genuine ability shown only in glimpses throughout the material that precedes it. Although the dark nature found throughout most of the album is still present, the severe tempo change and decreased reliance on the synthesizer makes way for a very simple yet effective guitar riff that adds a previously unseen layer to the track.
At the end of the day, Civilian
is a rather inconsistent album. Although undoubtedly containing some seriously infectious tracks in singles Back Again
the heavy influence from The Killers is at times too blatant and hinders the creative output from the band. The simplistic musical approach used generally offers too little in the way of variation and as a result many tracks sound too similar to one another to offer the listener much in the way of aural stimulation. Despite this, Boy Kill Boy do manage to tap into their potential a few times on the album and for this deserve some credit. Given the commercial success of this album in the UK it is fair to say that Boy Kill Boy are the new poster boys of the much maligned NME scene, a title that will undeniably generate a sophomore effort. However, Boy Kill Boy would do well to invest sufficient time in their own creative endeavours before the wave they are surfing suddenly crashes back to Earth.
On And On
Overall 2.5 Average