A congregation of Swans, Best Coast, Eerie Wanda and Dumb Numbers, Kidbug is a supergroup with a modest, if respectable, reputation already in-hand. Centered over a three-day recording session a few years ago now, their debut LP is first thing we get to hear from the band, outside of a few preceding singles.
With vocals from Wanda’s Marina Tadic, guitars from Dumb Numbers’ Adam Harding, bass from Best Coast’s Bobb Bruno and drums from Swans’ Thor Harris (save for the final track, featuring the incredible Dale Crover), it’s safe to expect a heavy dosage of fuzziness from Kidbug’s eponymous debut, and perhaps a penchant for the sweeter melodies.
To start things off, this will not be a long review — and you know what that means. There is exceedingly little to write about Kidbug, because there is exceedingly little to Kidbug. Despite a promising line-up of musicians making up the group, this album, running just over half an hour long, is lacking anything to warrant 10 minutes of your time, let alone 30.
To start on the technical side of things, the production, across the board, is muddier than a hog pen match (big up my shit mid-90s wrestling fans ayO). Particularly with an album so soaked in reverb, the fact that you can hardly distinguish the bass is frustrating beyond belief. It does have some decent drum mixing, but it’s still too cluttered for an album like this. It’s easy to assume that, because the guitars and bassy are heavily distorted, the drums are okay to be a little bit fuzzy but, in fact, the exact opposite is true — they need to cut through that distortion and alleviate the mix a bit. It’s nigh-on amateurish at points, and not in a good way.
Not that a solid mix would really elevate any of the songs here or, should I say, any of the song here, repeated 11 times with the slightest of variation. There’s a homogenous filter over every sound this album creates that makes it incredibly difficult to discern one track from the next. The songwriting, the vocals, the instrumentals, the performances — all are wildly underwhelming.
As is becoming a worrying trend with some of 2020’s more so-so albums, Kidbug suffers from a lack of tempo changes that stretch out the slim runtime into something feeling twice as long, Of course, it’s the fact that the runtime is so slim and it feels so much longer than really highlights how tedious these cuts are.
The vocals are dead-on-arrival, instead dining out on my withered soul, slumped back in its chair, monotonously humming. Melodically, the guitars here impress just as little, with the main riffs being stunted and forgettable. Moreover, the solos, while somewhat enjoyable, are rehashed over and over across the 11 tracks here. The rhythm section is draining; the bass droning and mind-numbing, the drums lacking any flair or groove, even with Crover’s performance on the back end.
That said, it’s the writing that does the real damage here. Though perhaps the songs here might be impressive if performed by a local support act, these are musicians with, at their least, four years of experience and, at their most, over 30. Therefore, you can imagine how disappointing it is to see these talented artists reduce their songwriting capabilities to joyless Pixies worship — an apt comparison considering the former’s ripping-off of the latter’s vocal stylings, heavily melodic basslines and minimal guitar leads. Everything is just too repetitive to love, only gaining a semblance of catchiness via blunt-object battery.
Overall, the debut LP from supergroup Kidbug is not a strong one, and puts into question the validity of the “supergroup” as a notion. The homogenised songs are shoddily assembled, lifelessly performed and, at times, uncannily similar, quality notwithstanding, to far superior bands. Especially considering the amount of potential here, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.