The Florida fivesome get Yorkshire dancing, but need to do more to outgrow ‘buzz band’ status. Carling Academy, Sheffield (June 9)
You might have heard the phrase ‘buzz band’, an utterance often accompanied by sentences like ‘toast of the blogosphere’ and ‘the highlight of CMJ/SXSW/insert name of industry showcase here’. It’s a relatively new phenomenon in these culturally accelerated climes, one largely restricted to US indie rock acts, and testament to the heat that can be generated by an ear to the ground and an account with blogger.com. For 2006, read Tapes ’N Tapes; 2007, Cold War Kids; 2008, Black Kids. The problem that’s presented itself to all of them is how to connect with people who enjoy their music away from a flickering computer screen. Yet it looks like the final band on that list might be the first to crack it.
It helps Black Kids’ cause that in ‘I’m Not Going To Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’, they’ve got a song with genuine hit single potential. And that they’re a pretty neat live band, with singing guitarist Reggie Youngblood flanked by his sister, Ali, and Dawn Watley on keyboards, who both come on like the coolest Double Dutch dancers this side of the holiday classic. But it’s the band’s sheer effervescence that stokes their connection with Sheffield’s sell-out crowd. Reggie greets the end of ‘I’m Making Eyes At You’ by modestly screeching, “That was awesome!” and, rather than scratching their chins and muttering, “This is almost as good as their review on Pitchfork,” the crowd echo his sentiments by actually dancing. Y’know, like they did in the opening credits of Happy Days.
It’s not all good though; Black Kids have a vast array of tricks at their disposal, but some work better than others. The gloomy ‘My Christian Name’ sounds like one of the rubbish songs on the Human League’s ‘Dare’ that people try to forget about because the others are so good. And closer ‘Look At Me (When I Rock Wichoo)’ is akin to The Go! Team at their most grating, with a coda that – we shit you not – sounds like M People. Yet when they find their stride, like on ‘I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)’ and ‘Hurricane Jane’ (which Reggie dedicates to South Yorkshire legends “Pulp and Def Leppard”) they sound astutely pop literate, and thrillingly populist. If Black Kids are going to overcome the potentially career-crippling words we cited at the start of this review, more of the same is required.