IT MUST BE hard not to want to reinvent yourself with your second album when you die of embarrassment listening to the first, which reeks of cheese. The Kids Of 88 debut, Sugar Pills, wasn’t just cheese – it was made of that highly processed, and probably poisonous, stuff they put on American pizzas. The Auckland duo seemed not to care, as long as it got them bopping up to collect their dues from the industry at the Music Awards. And it did.
It would be churlish, even unfair, to suggest there hasn’t been an improvement, both musically and aesthetically, with Modern Love two years on. Anyone who loves the sound of electronic music when it’s integrated with a pop song will get some sort of hit off this.
It sounds good, and it’s full of canny production touches – surging synths and squelching bits that even Depeche Mode might find attractive. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Depeche Mode defined this stuff in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so Kids Of 88 find themselves in a quandary, with little fresh produce to bring to the table.
At least Depeche Mode had appealingly miserable lyrics and memorable tunes. Kids Of 88, on the other hand, too often resort to bland bubblegum pronouncements, and while they can write a bouncy little tune, it seems they’re a little unclear about whether they’ve grown up, or still trying to seduce adolescents.
To sum up, then: while the sound design makes Modern Love a superficially engaging experience (for audio buffs, at least) the group have yet to grow musical personalities, or to figure out how to write lyrics that aren’t astoundingly bland. GARY STEEL
Music = 3/5
Sound = 4/5