Album Review: Kagoule – Strange Entertainment

Nottingham trio Kagoule return with a fresh new Alcopop! look and come equipped with their first full-length release since Urth debuted in 2015 on Earache Records.

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On the topic of Urth, it should be noted that the debut was a true telling of 90s grunge-inspired bangers, expertly combined with an alt-rock sound ever-present with Kagoule, which kept the album enthralling for its duration. The innovative noises created propelled the band onto the scene, highlighting a maturity beyond the trio’s teenage years. Three years on, Strange Entertainment furthers the alt-rock foundations with a new psychy, post-punk nuance, which perhaps lacks in straight-up bangers – although for me, in comparison to Urth, works more cohesively as an album.

 

Recorded in Leeds with MJ from Hookworms, the album certainly goes above and beyond in terms of production, sounding far more polished and hi-fi than the grittier Urth which undoubtedly suits the bands new direction. The production-style accentuates the vocal melodies on opener and single ‘Egg Hunt’ which blends eloquently with Cai Burns’ unique guitar sound, evocative of that hook on the anthem ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ (in the best way possible, trust me on this one) to further this alt-vintage 90s impression within the band’s sound.

Unlike the abrasive changes in dynamic and heavier grunge-based riffs on Urth, Strange Entertainment focuses on the subtleties and layering of sound, made evident on track two and additional single ‘Bad Saliva’, reminiscent of the psych-rock of Pond or My Bloody Valentine. ‘Too New Too Soon’ (my personal favourite of the album) offers an ode to the archetypal Urth era with big riffs throughout, although the neo-psych aesthetic, signified by bassist Lucy Hatter’s dissonant backing vocals, warps the song into a mysterious-sounding fantasy. Burns’ lyricism builds upon a theme of fantasy which is ever-present on the album, citing science fiction and fantasy storytelling as major influences. He explains his lyrical decision-making in more depth: “lyrically, I think this album is much more mature. I’ve found myself writing songs as a healing process for certain events or to capture moments that I don’t want to forget. I still mask them in fantasy for the fun of it but the topics of each song are more personal and the lyrics far more direct.”

As the album progresses, ‘Its Not My Day’ places an onus on the rhythmic components of the band, with Hatter’s powerful vocals and dominant bass-sound in the forefront adding a welcoming change to the norm, coupled by the ever-inventive drum style of Lawrence English – whose snare rolls and sharp rim shots formulate an interesting dynamic. ‘Superhuman’ then follows, which frequently alternates in tempo and key to keep you thoroughly captivated throughout. Further singles ‘Monsuier Automation’ and ‘Magnified’ can also be reheard, of which the latter is equipped with an unsettling-yet-mesmerising music video (released back in 2016) to visually encapsulate the fantasy-orientated nature of Strange Entertainment.

The album concludes with the wonky discord of ‘Balance’ followed by sombre post-punk sounding ‘Repent! Said The Insect Man’. Finally, the album wraps up with ‘Strange Was The Time’, comprised of a stop-start rhythm which slowly builds in intensity to generate a paramount ending to the album.

In reflection, Strange Entertainment takes flavours of many 80s and 90s sounding influences without becoming a saturated mess, as the album ties together neatly under a distinct production sound. Yes it’s less straight-up riff-based, but the songs are intelligently well-thought out and signifies a revolution of the band’s sound.

STRANGE ENTERTAINMENT BY KAGOULE IS OUT 26TH OCTOBER VIA ALCOPOP! RECORDS.