Kid Brother Collective

Highway Miles (reissue)

Written by: TL on 20/04/2013 13:43:50

I feel weird reviewing old releases. Maybe it's because I dive into it so frequently, but the music scene seems to be in such a constant state of flight, that trying to evaluate something from years ago with the weights and measures of the now - not to mention the benefit/handicap of hindsight - seems like an oddly awkward task. Still, when I found Kid Brother Collective in our promo pool, and read that they had supposedly helped inspire Jimmy Eat World - one of the best bands in the world if you ask me - I felt pretty much obliged to pick up the re-issue of the band's only ever album "Highway Miles" from 2003.

While Jimmy Eat World arguably transcended emo to ascend to the stratosphere of bands I personally hold them in, knowing their early stuff it comes as no surprise that Kid Brother Collective's sound is firmly rooted in the original Midwest emo sound. Bands like Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, American Football and Cap'N'Jazz should hence fly to mind more immediately when spinning "Highway Miles" - the release of which came along with last year's news of reunion shows from the Michigan sextet, that had otherwise been broken up since the year of the record's original release.

The ambiance of the album opener "Our Last Night" for instance, with the passing car, the ticking clock and the choir of crickets, is as gravely emo as can be, and it sets the perfect backdrop for the repetetive, melancholic clean guitar and the moany vocals, which give way to numbers being pressed on a phone, a muffled dialling tone and the disappointing beep of an answering machine, giving the listener the idea that what's to come is a confession of sorts being poured sadly onto someone's oldschool tape-recorder.

If so, the first two passages in that confession stand out the most, with "Insomnia" coupling the sentimental wail of grungy guitars with the impact of a refrain that wails "may God forgive me, 'cause I don't think you can!" and occasions of distorted vocals that seem oddly prophetic here, on a record that came out eight years prior to "Bon Iver, Bon Iver". It's followed by album highlight "Prize Fighter", which is the kind of song that has the inexplicable "it" from the first round of it's defiant signature riff, over the immediately memorable bitterness of the lyrics "Put on my ugly face! From now on we'll see what chances I take!".

While "Sore Loser" revisits the unusual vocal distortion and "Failure By Design" kicks up the kind of cathartic desperation that only wailing, mid-tempo guitar dynamics can, the album eventually feels increasingly harder for me to gauge. Because as it drags on, Kid Brother Collective's persistent moodyness gets to feeling a bit like undiscernable emo-soup - which would be an obvious problem for a record of today - but yet I wonder if their mere sound might not have had an entirely different feeling of novelty back in its own day.

Even though what I'm saying is simply that the songs start to blur together for me down the stretch however, what I really take away from "Highway Miles" is that there's probably a reason that I hadn't heard about Kid Brother Collective before it's re-release, yet I still think that it's sort of a shame. Because judging from it, the band clearly filled their take on the genre with as much vulnerability and urgency as it eventually got known for, and listening to it - at least as a guy with an strong penchant for emo - I think it's hard to not feel strangely nostalgic for a scene I wasn't even part of, yet sort of wish I had been.

Download: Prize Fighter, Insomnia, Sore Loser
For The Fans Of: Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, Texas Is The Reason, American Football

Release Date 11.12.2012
Count Your Lucky Stars

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