Album Review: Kai Fish – ‘Life In Monochrome’

Our rating:

An impressively soul-baring debut

Consult Ye Olde Handbook Of Rock’n’Roll Stereotypes and, nestled between the unhinged drummer and the egotistical frontman, lies the picture of nonchalant cool – the bassist, a breed generally content to wear their instruments slung low and their enthusiasm levels even lower, and usually the last person you’d imagine emerging out of the shadows into the solo project spotlight. OK, of course there’ve been a few notable exceptions – Macca and Kim Deal for two – but they were always swanning above and beyond their stations anyway.

That [a]Kai Fish[/a] – [a]Mystery Jets[/a]’ resident four-string twanger – has, out of the blue, come up with an independent offering makes for somewhat of a surprise. Even more of a surprise, however, is that away from the chirpy ’80s pop of his day job, Fish turns out to be an affective, emotive wonder. Introspective from the off (“[i]I’m close to tears most of the time recently/Since I discovered that I didn’t have the heart[/i]” begins ‘[b]Erasing The Young[/b]’), ‘[b]Life In Monochrome[/b]’ blazes in glorious Technicolor, dipping its toes into a wealth of influences but united by honest, human sentiment. Written (lyrically, at least) over the course of a single train journey, the album is an exemplary exercise in catharsis. From the ebullient highs of piano stomper ‘[b]Secret Garden[/b]’ or ‘[b]Homerton Baby[/b]’ – a virile romp, all decked up like [b]Smith Westerns[/b] playing at being Marc Bolan – to the swooping lows of ‘[b]Windows In Mirrors[/b]’, with its looping guitars and scattered drum patterns that plunge the depths of melancholia in [a]Radiohead[/a]-esque fashion, ‘[b]Life In Monochrome[/b]’ bares its soul, uncensored, for all to see. It is, you’d imagine, the kind of record that [a]Carl Barat[/a] tried to make.

If that all sounds a little over-sentimental, however, then fear not – any possibility of wrist-slitting musical self-indulgence is entirely quelled by the sheer, wide-eyed eclecticism on offer. ‘[b]My Anima[/b]’ leads off on a [a]Joy Division[/a]-recalling bassline before turning into a swaggering ’90s anthem, while ‘[b]Real Life[/b]’ is all Casio chintz and speak-singing à la [a]Metronomy[/a]. Then there’s ‘[b]Solar Plexus Of The World[/b]’, wrapped up in brooding strings, and centrepiece ‘[b]Cobalt Cheeks[/b]’ – blessed with a chorus that soars with the particular strain of lighters-aloft epicness that the likes of [a]Biffy Clyro[/a] and [a]Blur[/a] have slain hearts with.

It’s the kind of album that makes you wonder how Fish could be truly content in the tween-friendly arena of ‘[b]Two Doors Down[/b]’ (for tween-friendly this most certainly is not) and, indeed, why his clearly impressive talents have been kept relatively hidden until now. While [a]Mystery Jets[/a] have perfected a particular vein of joyous pop, it seems that Fish’s intentions are, intriguingly, not so black and white.

Lisa Wright

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT2UCn4bGBw

Details

Record label: Music For Wolves
Release date: 26 Sep, 2011