Review Summary: Contemplatively upbeat
In spite of its ominous title, Dead Kids R.I.P. City
is Soft Kill’s warmest, most fully realised album yet. While sticking to their post-punk roots, the new record sees the band continuing down the path laid out by Savior
in 2018, turning even further inwards lyrically while simultaneously expanding on their established, highly recognisable sound. The result is a truly magnificent album that sees fit to explore and simplify some of the darkest corners of the mind through sheer beauty, passion and a whole lot of raw talent.
The textures embedded within Dead Kids R.I.P. City
make for its accessibility as well as lending it a great degree of cohesion. While Soft Kill have always been experts at crafting catchy, gloomy numbers, the focus on a real sense of progression throughout the album adds a highly rewarding new level. The bouncy opener ‘Roses All Around’ instantly showcases the band’s contemplatively peppy music, equal parts dusk and sunrise. Yet, as the record advances, the songs get gradually brighter, quietly adding new elements. In spite of the subtlety of this shift, the introduction of sparkly synths and twinkling guitars is highly effective. Reaching this particular, glistening climax with the one-two punch consisting of ‘Ducky’ and ‘Inverness’, the latter song brilliantly juxtaposes an irresistibly catchy synth melody with a driving bassline, compromising neither the band’s trademark somber atmosphere nor the album’s oddly upbeat qualities.
Yet, as wonderful as the full experience of Dead Kids R.I.P. City
is, the individual songs are undeniably excellent as well. Once the record has accomplished its progression with the aforementioned ‘Inverness’, undeniable highlight ‘Oil Burner’ condenses all that makes Soft Kill great into a shoegaze-infused eight minutes. The song builds, calms down and restructures itself into a huge, nearly impenetrable wall of gorgeous sound, drowning out Tobias Graves’ voice to the point where the only distinguishable lyrics appear concretely applicable to the entire record: ‘...still next to you’. It’s ominous, simplistic and strangely poetic, guided by Graves’ voice. Elsewhere, on ‘Floodgate’, featured artist Tamaryn complements the singer’s dark, weathered tones beautifully as they lament: ‘I lay / Broken on the ground’. While it seems hardly worth noting outside of the context of the music, it works brilliantly wrapped within Soft Kill’s dense, driving instrumentals.
The only slight issue presents itself in the form of the closing track ‘I Needed the Pain’. While it can hardly be deemed a bad song, the acoustic guitars and violins are a tad saccharine with the song feeling out of place in the otherwise carefully constructed atmosphere of Dead Kids R.I.P. City
. Thankfully, as it bookends the record, the damage done by the song is rather insignificant. Instead, reliving the highs of the infectious ‘Wanting War’ or pressing play on ‘Crimey’ yet again to experience its masterful entanglement of white noise with bright melodies seems all the more appealing.
This is precisely where Dead Kids R.I.P. City
finds its strengths: it’s a highly listenable 47-minute experience, gently showing listeners a more invigorated, focused Soft Kill as it consistently adds novel elements to achieve shiny highs, while still allowing each song enough space to breathe and be highly distinguishable. As such, the band’s new album is not only their best as an overall experience; it also comprises some of the band’s best songs that manage to stand tall even without the immersive framework of Dead Kids R.I.P. City