LA two-piece Kisses' debut comes amidst a flurry of Euro minimal disco and feels like a failure borne of a cultural incompatibility. That's not to say that Americans can’t do European music of this ilk - you only have to look at New Jersey's Italians Do It Better label - but The Heart of the Nightlife presents homage without individuality.
As the album bounces into play, the initial slice of European disco pop provides hope. The sound is so light it blows away and the band lassos kitsch drum patterns to bass lines played like rubber bands. Therein also lies the first annoyance. As the album plays out there’s very little variety and rarely, save the penultimate ‘Midnight Lover’, do the bass or drums make you want to actually dance. The chorus of ‘Midnight Lover’ is then butchered with the vocals of “I’d like to take you out, for a nice steak dinner”. Arched eyebrows or not, it’s a massive mood killer to a genuine moment of potential euphoria.
Vocalist Jesse Kivel has a solid, low croon. He sounds Swedish, his vowels rolled and his ‘a’s slightly squashed. His voice is pleasant though the melodies never stick, which is 99 per cent of the problem. A uniform approach to tempo and sound make certain moments leap out of the prevalent grey. Opening number ‘Kisses’ makes you feel warm when Kivel pronounces “love strong, live long, and give kisses when you can” to a bouncing pulse and off beat maracas. But there just isn’t enough of it - for every moment that shines a hundred mumble along. The songs aren’t as melodically touching as Jens Lekman, nor as bombastic as The Tough Alliance, though both could be cited as peers. The band also professes a love of sweaty, glamorous Euro disco, but this love is well hidden in short songs that don’t lock into a groove or evolve, and the production is thin.
If The Heart of the Nightlife aims for rotation in a high-class, boutique, hotel, it will probably succeed. Its optimum context would be crackling from tinny speakers in a lavish reception. There its background muffle of keyboards and electronic blip wouldn’t intrude over the chatter of the guests but could still tick the trend and comfort boxes.
But for the regular listener, the components of this album should work, but they just don’t. It’s not through lack of want but it feels like a lack of patience. With more depth and crafting this could send shivers and be beautiful. Right now, however, it merely ticks a box.
4Jon Falcone's Score