Teenage Kicks

These three guys (guitarist/singer Kirke Campbell, bassist Stewart Anderson, & drummer John Baldwin) are one of the best damn bands in town right now, no lie. I’m not quite sure how they do it, but they’re like the freakin’ embodiment of power-pop. They take everything I love about all those bands from the proto-punk era, when the lines were a lot more blurred (read: nonexistent) than they are right now. Seriously, these guys boil down the genius of folks like The Undertones (duh), The Boys, Wreckless Eric, Stiff Little Fingers, and — most of all — The Jam, and distill it into its coolest/purest form.

They’re both raw and smart at the same time, with a knack for awesome melodies, a nicely bitter lyrical sense, a subtle-yet-outraged political bent, and best of all, they honest-to-God seem to worship the music they play. They’re one of those bands you can easily picture scouring used vinyl bins for obscure retro gems and valiantly defending under-appreciated but hooky gems. They’re not just aping some garage-rock trend because it’s cool, but play this stuff because they fucking totally love it, and that love nearly seeps out through their pores. They’re like your geekiest, most earnest, most OCD record-collecting friend, except they actually play instruments and aren’t nearly that high-strung. Simply put: they’re awesome.

The closest kin I can see — esp. with their more recent stuff, which is a bit more nuanced and smart than the first few tracks they released — is the aforementioned Jam, and while I’m probably repeating things I’ve said elsewhere, the Kicks are honestly one of the few bands I’ve ever heard that ride that line between punk and pop without a single misstep. They’re loud when they need to be, melodic when they need to be, and smart as hell throughout. The songs never outlast their welcome, instead leaving you (well, me, at least) wishing they’d go on a little longer, like maybe all day or something. Plus, they make some truly understated political jabs (I think, anyway) without coming off like self-righteous, self-important jerks. Which is always a good thing.

Also nice about the band is that they’re all fiercely devoted to “The Scene” and work their asses off to not only promote themselves but to help out other folks, to boot. A couple of the guys (not sure which, sorry!) started up the Houstonpunk.com site/board, which has been a welcome addition to the local digital landscape, and drummer John’s also been part of the Always Summer Booking crew, which has been sadly kinda quiet lately but deserve boatloads of credit for bringing some great shows to town. This is what a fully-functional scene’s about, folks: good bands that don’t just rock out on stage & then sit back on the couch ’til the next show rolls around

They don’t have a whole heck of a lot out yet — there’s currently one self-titled EP (which is excellent) and a Grey Ghost series EP (which is good, but messy/noisy) that you’re never, ever gonna see if you don’t already own a copy, and that’s it — but I’m told there’s more on the way, like two possible 7-inches that’re hopefully coming out sometime in the next several months. Keep your eyes out for ’em, seriously.

Post by . This entry was posted on Monday, September 8th, 2008. Filed under Past Bands.

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