Review Summary: just a little unwell
The opening moments of Time 'n’ Place made me do a double take - I wouldn't be surprised to hear most people had the same reaction. The tonal shift between everything Kero Kero Bonito has done before, the opening track, and the one that follows perfectly encapsulates what's going on here. The group has always been just left of center in its pop styling, maybe a little too sweet here and there, but following a general formula. But Time 'n’ Place throws caution -and predictability- to the wind. See, KKB has added two things that make their third offering a growth moment - guitars and mental health issues.
And boy do they use those guitars to their benefit! The wall of sound guitars that usher in the album on opener ‘Outside’ are a statement, and it sticks. Whether they’re used to dreamy effect or to add a heavier rock sound, the guitars are never a detriment to Time ‘n’ Place. They along with the synths provide wonderful instrumental highlights across nearly every track. All these tracks are peppered with some pretty experimental stuff (in relation to the band, of course). One breaks down into a stuttering, kind of terrifying mess. Another finds Sarah’s voice being drowned out by electronic noise. ‘If I’d Known’ has a dirty, dissonant guitar solo that I can’t stop thinking about. Listening to this trio go from rot-your-teeth saccharine sweet bubblegum pop to experimental indie band is wild in the best of ways. Going from tracks with perfectly rigid pop structure to doing things like letting your vocalist take the backseat to random noise shows guts, and pulling it off well shows talent.
But it wouldn’t all be as effective if we didn’t look at the songwriting. The band has gone from songs about taking a break, waking up in the morning, and hearing a song on the radio to dealing with anxieties about mortality, reflecting on personal identity, and depression. It’s not that these are unique topics. It’s that the band keeps just enough of those sunny instruments around to give off this...I don’t know - it’s not that it’s dissonant or anything. It’s more like the songwriter is accepting the melancholy and facing it head on, trying to push through. Time ‘n’ Place is working through the issues its presenting. Bright spot ‘Sometimes’ is ‘hang in there’ put to music, and that’s the point. ‘Sometimes’ life is *** for one reason or another, and sometimes it’s not. It’s feeling unwell and unsure, it’s feeling worried for someone, it’s feeling afraid of reality. But it’s all the opposite of those things too. Maybe you have to swim to get there, and you can’t just dream it away. Maybe you have to fight to feel at peace, or face reality. But you can do it. Kero Kero Bonito thinks you can.