Adorned with three roughly hand-drawn visages on a wrap-around paste-on cover—replicated handsomely on this reissue—1986’s lone album by the Kinbotes on the small NY label Nix is a mysterious and intriguing one. A hand-writ mockingly intellectual dissection of their music features on the rear fold, and the liner notes—presented with love and detail by occasional Ugly Things scribe Jack D. Fleischer—reveal the work was cut by just a duo. Vocalist/lyricist/conceptualist Nat Hirsh and Dave Cateforis met while attending Philly’s small liberal arts college Swarthmore, and later cut this collection of tracks in Hirsh’s dorm room. The lo-fi, ramshackle, inept nature of the recordings present the group more akin to the UK DIY profiled in Chuck Warner’s Messthetics series, and make early Beat Happening sound like a polished outfit. But, most interesting is that some genuine pop songs live within their deadpan, tongue-in-cheek humor, at times sounding like a seriously damaged example of the ‘80s C86 scene.
Hirsh emotes in a monotone similar to Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman, most evident on the gently strummed coming of age tale set to tinker-toy piano “Julie Don’t Care,” a completely arresting tune in defiance of its ramshackle nature, dark humor is shown in the piano-led recitation “The King of Comedy”—both referencing the Scorcese film and mockingly reflecting on Ian Curtis’ suicide, deadpanning: “Ian Curtis was a true individual / that Jim Morrison influence was just subliminal…”—while “My Baby” offers an other-worldly, deconstructed ‘60s punk tough chick churner. Both working soulful, bubbly basslines “Gets So Hard” and “My Lucky Day” supply outstanding hooks, with the former inserting rapid-fire No Wave funk riffing into the mix, and a trio of tracks (“Could You Tell Her for Me,” “Gingerbread Boy,” “Like A Movie”) quite oddly sound like alt-universe jangle-pop.
If this is a "New Wave" record, it’s a wave I’m still waiting on, touching on bubblegum, British post-punk, light C&W influences, ‘60s punk/psych, and ‘80s pop through a skewed prism—while still somehow still sounding coherent—replete with cardboard box drums, primitive drum machines and sincere execution. The Kinbotes is a top pick for me—the replications of a personal manifesto/press release, and contemporaneous press gracing one side of this reissue’s insert only adds to the pleasure.
Check out "Gingerbread Boy" by The Kinbotes right here, and pick up the reissue on Slowboy Records: