Labour Of Love: Artsick and Kids On A Crime Spree are in Slumberland
Limited colour vinyl formats of two future indie pop classics
Here in Monorail we’re always in awe of the independent record labels that work tirelessly to bring the world’s outsiders into the light. These are lifers, people at the edge of their tethers fueled by coffee and pure, unfiltered passion for the music and culture they’re immersed in. One such label is the Oakland, USA-based label Slumberland who, decades before Monorail opened, began releasing pop music made by inspired, love-lorn weirdos and never stopped. With Kids On A Crime Spree and Artsick, and last year with The Umbrellas and Chime School amongst others, Slumberland are as vital as ever.
Kids On A Crime Spree may have been percolating in the indie / fuzz pop underground for a few years now but the synergy they’ve boiled down on Fall In Love Not In Line marks the high, high point of their time. We’re talking 70’s Power Pop (think Phil Spector producing the Ramones), a speedy punk dynamic fighting against the amassing reverb and classic, C-L-A-S-S-I-C-O harmonies. It’s a guitar record alright, with layers of differing textures woven by six strings resulting in a gauze of mealy, meaty sharpness. At times an undertow of distorted guitar and fuzz-bass absolutely stinking of earlier My Bloody Valentine, at others a clangy, twangy single-coil surf lead guitar, this is axe-heavy in all the best ways.
Lead singer Mario Hernandez’s vocal strikes just the right amount of sneer along with the nasal, bratty heart-break and it elucidates these sugary power-pop nuggets with a beautiful doomed, skinny-tied wonder. Stand out tracks? Sheesh, where to start. When Can I See You hits straight to the solar plexus like one of those perfect Good Vibrations punk 7”s from 70s Derry, Goods Get Got has a gritty Dead Moon-ish riff that turns the track into a late 60s moody teen stomper, Steve, Why Are You Such A Liar? Feels like classic indie pop banger if Joe Meek snuck into the studio and had a go at the guitars. The whole record is like a Pick ‘n’ Mix of sugary treats that are actually good for your heart? Who knew?
Are you ready to fall in love?
And then there’s Artsick, who are so casually brilliant and who gives a fuck (come on, we’re all adults here), that they pull off that brilliant trick of making you care so much about their music by playing it so cool.
Artsick was formed in June 2018 when Christina Riley was feeling “artsick” and writing songs, but missing the inspiration and excitement of collaborating with her old band, Burnt Palms. Soon joined by members of Kids On A Crime Spree and Hard Left, Riley’s solo tunes turned into a fully fledged, scuzzy and fuzzy Punked Indie Pop hit to the central nervous system of anyone with ears. This is the kind of music that you could sit with your magnifying glass and pick apart (Dolly Mixture here, Vivian Girls, Television Personalities, Colleen Green upstartedness yadda yadda) but what sort of life is that? Riley’s music is a P-O-P dedication to all that is tough and mind-blowingly fun about being young, unsure and brilliant.
Some of these songs are so Off-The-Cuff they’re flailing un-buttoned in the wind, uncaring and free. The frayed Shop Assistants-charm is all over Artsick, like lead track Despise that is so effortlessly catchy with those 3 damn chords that we’re never gonna shake and why would we want to and those vocals that seem to drift away from the mic into the shambling mosh pit and that’s the way we like it it’s so sugary and excitable and also not caring that we’re wondering how long this sentence is going to last. It’s that good, so easy and honest.
Like we said, you could pick out the influences like some extremely poorly-laced 80s Doc Martens but you don’t have to. In a way this is not-thinking music, it’s slam it on the cans, on the turntable and just keep getting up and putting it on at the start. Sometimes the tumult in Riley’s lyrics might give you a little bit of that anxiety like, wow being young was stressful but was it ever this fun? We can’t remember so it’s good bands like Artsick can remind us.