Ambition is always something to be admired in a young, up-and-coming band, and this new EP from Manchester-based trio Too Cool Kid is nothing but ambitious. It comes as close to a concept album as an EP can, and it is accompanied by a series of connecting videos, directed by Ola El Awadly, adding another layer of narration to the story told by the music. It certainly testifies to the band’s ability to think of the bigger picture, and there is a clear thread running through all the tracks, not just in their themes, but also in their sound. The whole package feels coherent, consistent, and uniform.
This uniformity is both The Candidate‘s greatest strength and its greatest weakness. In a record with such a strong underlying project, it is the necessary glue holding it all together, and it contributes a great deal to its incisiveness. At the same time, the four tracks can’t entirely shed a certain air of predictability. They all have the same way of starting soft and then giving way to a thrumming bass line, the same full-bodied kind of chorus, and the same contrast between the slower, dreamier sections and the rougher ones. They also contain, however, numerous seeds of the unexpected – and it is in those that the main promise of this EP lies.
‘Drained‘ opens with a bold bass and ends on a sharp note. Vocalist Jay Plent is in more than one place reminiscent of The Cure in his delivery, but never more than here. The guitar riffs have a pleasant roughness to them, and the song has a subdued intensity that seems to be a favourite mood with this band.
‘Sleep Me Off,’ by contrast, pairs tinkling guitar sounds with a thrumming bass. It might be the catchiest track on the EP, and at more than one point I found myself wishing that it would be that little bit braver, and deliver in full on the great deal of promise that it shows: at times it recalls the kind of full-bodied sound one associates with the likes of The Strokes, but it is when it plays more daringly with different rhythms and interlocking vocals that it is at its strongest.
‘Arrogant Peace Protest‘ has the same slow start followed by a harsher turn, but decides to go for haunting instead, and is clearly a track that could be at its best when played live; the chorus is made for a crowd to sing along. Plent’s vocals are particularly satisfying here, as he displays his full range, including an excellent command of falsetto.
‘After Hours,’ once again starting soft and growing rougher as it goes on, is my personal favourite. The guitar sound discovers a wailing quality that suits the song particularly well, the chorus is intense and hammering, and the vocals go from rounded and dark to painful. Here again there are some signs of experimentation and departure from the usual scheme that could become more concrete in future work, and that hold considerable promise for the future. It certainly closes the record on a strong note.
There is much to be praised in The Candidate, both in its choice to be a coherent unity rather than a simple collection of tracks and in its ability to find its own voice. It has a type of sound that I had not heard since the early 2000s, and a well-defined personality. There are clear areas for growth, too; the four tracks all seem to follow the same general pattern, and while this works in a shorter record like an EP, to sustain an album more variety would be needed. It must be noted though that the four tracks contain many hints at ideas that are indeed different and daring, and if pursued, could lead to a well-rounded, captivating long player.
Too Cool Kid’s new EP, The Candidate is out now – available to purchase direct at Bandcamp.
Photo Credit: Chris Plent