Keyboard Rebel – Pop Grenade (Aaahh Records)
Billed, apparently, as Indie Mavericks by both themselves and the Aaahh Records NetLabel (also home to the rather better Entertainment for the Braindead) Keyboard Rebel are a Pop Folk outfit hailing from the barren North, or Manchester, as it’s otherwise known. Pop Grenade, their first release on Aaahh unfortunately does little to live up to the grandiose tag, feeling less like deconstruction of the Pop song and more like twee ‘eccentricity’ by numbers. Take a rather bog standard, not unpleasant light Pop tune, throw in a few random instruments and flourishes to qualify it as ‘different’ and then unleash onto the interwebs, it’s a pretty safe formula because there’ll always be someone who’s happy to listen to it and it really doesn’t make for a hard listen, problems start to appear though when it becomes clear that the band wanted to create something fresh and interesting though, which this is not.
Musically it’s, as I said, fairly average and if you’re looking for a light bit of Pop to fill the silence of a pleasant afternoon then you could do far worse but the attempts at invoking curiosity in the listener fall rather flat, an accordion doesn’t equate to interest unfortunately. That can be forgiven though, hopes so high are rarely lived up to and the intent is good at least. If it stopped there then the end project would be fine but, unfortunately, you’ve got vocals too. Keyboard Rebel’s lead singer just doesn’t fit with the music, there’s a weak voice embellished with uncomfortable, out of place attempts at taking control of the song which almost sound as if he’s being caught out by the rest of the band, them doing their own thing while he tries to guess what’s going to happen next and where he’s going. The best that can be said of his efforts is that they’re too weak to take over the music but that simply highlights their superfluity and imbues him with an almost annoying quality when you find yourself asking ‘why’re you doing that?’
This isn’t to be overly harsh though, his voice isn’t dire and by the standards of a lot of gentle Indie music he’s nothing to get riled about, it’s just a shame that even though the hopes on the musical side of things weren’t entirely justified with the end project they were at least there, whereas vocally there doesn’t appear to have been any efforts made to break away from the vast bulk of similar stuff that’s around, in fact if anything it’s a carbon copy of the most average qualities you can find.
Anyway, Pop Grenade certainly isn’t to be strongly recommended but it’s no bad thing to have around so worth a download, if nothing else you’ll have a perfectly serviceable Indie album which you didn’t have to pay for and the world being as it is there’s little doubt that Keyboard Rebel could well make a shift to the next level sooner or later, so you can smugly say that you heard ‘em before most. Although one shudders to think what would happen if a commercial label decided to push them even more towards the mainstream, generic end of things.