Kitchen People are Jake, Charles, Vin and Tom and they make fast, un-pretty, clever scumbag guitar music. I’ve never seen them live, mainly because I’ve been living in Melbourne but there are lots of things about the band that appeal to me, not least of which is the way they don’t seem to give a shit what a Perth band is “supposed” to sound like in 2014/15. They’re not preoccupied with sounding sunny, beachy, psychedelic, dreamy or matey (not that there’s anything wrong with that, hawhaw). Instead they’ve got a timeless, primitive punk attack – and sufficiently great songwriting so as to require no bells or whistles.
This self-titled EP was released into the internet wilderness just before Christmas, and recorded seemingly throughout the preceding year. It’s a direct, concise, unpretentious effort from the quartet, which shares members with Hideous Sun Demon, Cool Band, etc; it cuts through the nonsense like Ajax Spay-and-Wipe.
“Vacant” opens with one rattling, surfy, crusty chord before unleashing a frantic beat and a charmingly self-defeating opening line: “why do I bother opening my mouth?” It comes out in a distinctly Australian, conversational tone which recalls Melbourne garage-punk of recent years, and I’m sure it’s not coincidence that Mikey Young (Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Total Control etc) mastered this thing. Still, there’s no sense that Kitchen People are aping that circle of acts: despite the similarities, this sounds like a band making music for itself, for the sweaty joy of thrashing and laughing and snarling, and not really for impressing anyone else with an established schtick.
The tunes come too fast for this reviewer to even jot down notes on them: the tongue-in-cheek, neo-Nuggets type number “Girlfriend Doesn’t Like Rock and Roll” quickly makes way for “I Can’t Feel My Teeth” which wraps up in a mere fifty-six seconds. Like a streaker, It makes itself known – in no uncertain terms – and is gone as abruptly as it arrived.
“Open My Mouth” is built on a relentless quaver/semiquaver chug and is a great pop tune, exemplifying Kitchen People’s enviable knack for crafting melodic hooks without sacrificing their sense of spontaneity or scrappy abandon. “Planet” is another case in point, even going so far as to introduce a “pre-chorus” and minimal “breakdown” and “solo” into the structure, while still keeping the whole thing under three minutes. “Take, Take, Take” boasts an unashamed pub-rock hook that any number of classic Australian bands would be happy to add to their inventory, before the EP’s longest song (still only 3:21), “Problems” rounds out the release. It’s the biggest deviation, not really because it’s longer, but because it’s slower, and is especially melodic (maybe even slightly melancholy); it pointedly leaves room for lyrics, rather than consuming them in a distorted barrage of momentum. That it’s different is not to say it’s out of character; indeed, the 3-note guitar solo, simple groove and bare-bones palette is perfectly in keeping with their sound. But it’s welcome proof that Kitchen People can do more than stir up a frenzy.
One of this EP’s greatest strengths – its rawness, its lo-fi wall-of-sound aesthetic – also becomes a frustration when you realise the lyrics you’re not quite hearing are probably great. Thinking about the bands of which Kitchen People remind me – from Eddy Current to 90’s surf-scuzz Perth ensemble The Feends and even, say, The Saints or You Am I – it’s not just the delivery that makes their carefree songs so satisfying; it’s the content of the lackadaisical, prosaic lyrics themselves. I’d be happy to sacrifice a bit of grit and density to let these shine through in Kitchen People’s songs, as per “Problems” – and I hope there’s some more of that approach on their upcoming album, which apparently they are recording as we speak. On the flipside, I hope (and suspect) they won’t tidy up the production too much. These are beautiful dishes best left dirty. Keep it up Kitchen People.