Posted on March 25, 2016 by Caleb Turner
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
self; 2015


If you follow Rainbow Kitten Surprise (if not, you will now), you might wonder why I’m reviewing their (sort-of) self-titled so late. After all, RKS came out last year. But I have an excuse. I’ve had ‘Seven,’ a track off of the band’s debut album, stuck in my head for weeks.

I’m not satisfied
with that look up in your eyes
with that face you make when I come down around here lately…

That song is dope. If you listened to my show (Sunday 6-9 AM) last week, I think it was on there. So I wanted to review Seven + Mary (2013), a combination of their two EPs.

I have a hard time appreciating albums. As much as I want to think of myself as eclectic and a hipster, give me any album and I guarantee you that after I listen to the whole thing, the three tracks that stand out to me as “Oh, I could listen to this again” will happen to be the artist’s top three songs. That’s exactly what happened when I listened to Seven + Mary. But then I realized that Rainbow Kitten Surprise had released this newer album last year, and it sounds corny but from the first few seconds of the first track, ‘Run,’ I knew I’d be reviewing this album. And RKS for me was an enjoyable experience the whole way. It had a coherent, polished feel that Seven + Mary lacked, no two tracks alike but still they tell the same story. What is the story of RKS? To me, it’s the story of pursuing love in spite of the bleakness that can surround us in life.

‘Run’ starts the album off strong. It carries a solid blues influence, reminding me a little of The Black Keys mixed with some classic rock. Noisy, driving electric guitar blending with angsty vocals. ‘Counting Cards’ brings things down, but keeps a mysterious air. ‘Wasted’ is an insistent song that introduces in earnest the theme of chasing love and fighting dissipation (I cannot care for you, I cannot bear to love you any less than you need / drink up you’re wasted on me). As the album builds up to the memorable ‘American Shoes’ and ‘Cocaine Jesus,’ we hear a beautiful, soft voice that reminds us a little of folk music or singer-songwriters. Amidst the hard questions (What’s harder, harder to say? / That you want me to stay, or that you want me stay unchanged for you?) we hear contradiction: we were killed on the pavement; I could die in your arms.

One of my favorite lines is in ‘American Shoes’: I love you like the kids love throwing bottles off the bridge. It’s a song of promise in the middle of the despair, or despair in the middle of promise, I’m not sure which. It’s certainly not an overly happy or shallow album. ‘Cocaine Jesus’ changes the theme a little, and ‘Bare Bones’ and ‘Goodnight Chicago’ mellow out the album, with love still knocking at the door, asking when will you let me in, and the fight to rise above the drink that’s always there. ‘The Comedown’ finishes off nicely, a little more hopeful in tone, but he’s still coming up short of the love he’s been looking for, she’s driving him to drink still, but he’s still searching.

Vocals feature prominently in this album, which I often don’t like, but here they complement the instrumentals beautifully. The lyrics are genius; every song is a poem, full of slant rhymes and lines that merge seamlessly into one another with just a slight change in pitch. His voice is so smooth it sounds like he doesn’t have to try. And the lyrics are stuffed with metaphors and references (The Yankees played today, they played, but in the eighth the Sox, they clutched the game / Like DMC we run this **** / plain in my view is the blame for the fault in our stars). This album is a treasure, as it combines exquisitely crafted lyrics with a flawless voice, and behind it all effortless instrumentation that glides off every word.

So give RKS a listen. And then you can check out ‘Seven,’ and be ready to hit that repeat button.