Monday, June 8, 2009

Cassette Kids: even indie pop-rockers need a little soul

Cassette Kids are a scene marketing dream. Cute blonde singer, sceno looks all round (all the boys are currently sporting mos), more onstage posing than their fans can poke their iPhones at, and a rocking set of catchy songs that elicits frenzied indie dancing action. They must be doing something right because this week they’re supporting Lily Allen on the Australian leg of her tour, a nice little career highlight right there.

I saw them play for the first time last week (At the Beachie. It’s becoming a habit - I’m cheap and I love free gigs) and it was a good show. I wonder though, is “good” good enough? They’re certainly competent musicians and the songs are solid. They’re great performers, particularly Kat Noorbergen (aforementioned cute blond singer) and they’ve got the look down, what with their Kicks and their Nudies and hair that’s been styled within an inch of its life to look un-styled. But, with all those boxes ticked, there still seems to be something missing. It’s like the glue, the feeling, is lacking and so all the parts don’t hold together properly and the whole is no greater than the sum of its parts.

Comparison to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is inevitable (Kat could be a blonder, younger Karen O) and it’s this comparison that probably best highlights what I’m angling at. Karen O and the YYYs have that rare commodity: the X-factor. Aside from being skilled musicians, they completely embody the sound they make – they way they move, look, dress, everything is coherent and the impact is fantastic. They’re not trying to be cool or different, they just are, and so we can’t help but tune in (even people who aren’t fans would most likely agree that they’re great at what they do and that Karen O is one cool cat).

Cassette Kids seem to be too wrapped up in the styling of being an indie cool band to really feel the music that they’re playing, and so for all their energy and enthusiasm onstage, they ring a little hollow. It’s the little things that all added up to give me that impression – the way the bass guitarist threw himself around the stage but only once in the whole set looked to the drummer to lock in with him; the way Kat yelped her high notes every single time as though what started as a unique vocal styling has become a fallback easy-way-out technique and so sounds stale after the first four or five songs; the way the only one on the stage whose body moved completely with the music was the guy on keys/samples, who I’m pretty sure also happens to be the only unofficial member of the band; the way the songs, though catchy, lack a sense of musicality and all sound similar on the first listen.

The band is entertaining enough and they’re definitely stacked near the top of the pile. They’ve got all the right bits and pieces in place to be deserving of their Sydney ‘It Band’ status, but if they want to join the big league they’re going to need some soul to hold it all together.

Cassette Kids at Beach Rd Hotel

Cassette Kids at Beach Rd Hotel