The Kill Van Kulls - Songs For Sinners

The results are mixed; it’s almost like it’s all become a little too squeaky clean.

Rating: 6

It must be infinitely tough being a band from Manchester. Surrounded by lots of ideas and lots of talent of varying degrees, it’s not just a want, there’s a need to stand out. The Kill Van Kulls starred at the 2010 edition of local event In The City and then 2011’s Dot To Dot. ‘Fool’s Wish’, a single released last year with ‘80s era synths buzzing along with anthemic vocals, showed so much promise. A year later and just in time before their appearances at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City, the band is stepping out with a new EP entitled ‘Songs For Sinners’. The results are mixed; some songs feel too polished; it’s almost like it’s all become a little too squeaky clean, too safe and quite possibly, too Spector. And one just sticks out like a sore thumb.

The EP begins with ‘Impossible Man’. Angelic synth notes usher in the tune, and frontman Gareth Bartlett sings about “having lost my way with women.” Musically, it ticks the “anthemic” box well, filling you up with all the right things as it climaxes (a nice guitar hook, driving drum beats), but it also risks being forgettable. The next song is ‘Shame & Pride’, a strange inclusion. This one has a ‘70s hustle vibe that, depending on your musical upbringing and associated prejudices, is either cool or creepy. If your mind is with the latter, you’ll have trouble taking the words seriously.

Then the EP switches back to being more serious for third song ‘Flames’. “Flames are lighting up the sky / Flames are keeping us alive” – possibly London Olympics theme? Maybe, maybe not. It’s trying to be David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, which is not a bad thing, but if you compare it to the song directly preceding it, ‘Flames’ feels completely out of character. You’re sat there asking yourself, is this even the same band? ‘Alive’, with a sweeping chorus, melodic guitar and all sharp edges smoothed out, is nice enough to calm the savage beast, but it’s not stirring up any deep emotions either. Cutting ‘Shame & Pride’ out of the equation, you have something that is reasonably coherent and enjoyable but are the songs memorable? Maybe, if the band has some great live appearances up ahead.