Black Kids, UCCA, Canterbury
Monday 11 February 2008
"I've underestimated my charm again," Reggie Youngblood sings. It's a mistake which must be hard to make at the moment, as his band Black Kids (named to be "provocative but innocuous, like Sex Pistols") fill 2008's Next Big Thing lists. Swept up in the current novel-sounding methods of hype (a free MySpace download EP, and ecstatic blogs after one New York gig stuffed with journalists), Youngblood has admitted to being taken aback by the attention. This Jacksonville, Florida band have after all played perhaps a dozen shows, and have yet to record an album. Their first UK headlining gig, though, in a small but packed Kent student club, is such a joyous rush that the music business machinations surrounding it cease to matter.
Reggie and his keyboardist sister Ali, the five-piece's two actual black kids, are visually playful, with frizzed explosions of hair. Reggie's chiselled handsomeness meanwhile channels pop's androgynous kings and queens. On "I've Underestimated My Charm Again", a voice that starts as Bowie's Thin White Duke drawl shatters and multiplies into a Rocky Horror girl group. On "Love Me Already", that voice becomes an echo chamber, haunting itself, before he is supplanted by his sister's sneers. Finally, he morphs into Prince's falsetto.
The splits and hairpin turns inside songs are more startling than those in between. Like many of Youngblood's acknowledged influences, such as Sparks and Magnetic Fields, there is a busily self-conscious, pop-literate intellect at work. But what is more impressive is a mood mixing desperate energy and childish enjoyment. Every one of their lyrics seems to be about messy dancefloor hedonism and sex.
Early Eighties-electro synths, sounding so pure and innocent now, combine with Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" bassline and hectoring, squalling guitars on "Partie Traumatic".
By "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You", both female keyboardists are yelping gleefully to Orange Juice's indie Afro-beat, as the references carelessly mash into each other. Even the mixing desk has been switched off, redundant.
"Thank you, sweet, sweet Canterbury," Reggie croons, as he surveys his first British conquests. Black Kids are so in tune with the dance-guitar rush of this country's nu-rave movement that other towns will fall for them soon. Whether great things follow or they're this New Year's hype shouldn't bother anyone. This fresh and fun night out left no one short-changed.
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