Once upon a time, Norwich’s KaitO did a split 7” with Derby’s Cato. I was around Derby at the time and remember the excitement KaitO caused when they turned up to promote the record and were steadfastly excellent. They were a distillation of all the best things about Derby’s favourite pop-noiseniks Twinkie; a healthy dollop of the Pixies’ hookiness, a measure of Sonic Youth’s bloody-mindedness and a crucial element of English savvy. They also had Nikki, whose voice, we all agreed, was remarkable.
'Should I', the lead track on this new Blast First/Mute EP, is great, but the most memorable of the four tunes is ‘Driving Manual Auto’. "Watch out, I’m going all electro" is the only lyric I can make out after repeated listens, but I’m perfectly happy with that. Although I’ve no idea what Nikki’s singing elsewhere, she sounds great and the way she pronounces the ‘auto’ of ‘Driving Manual Auto’ is my pick of the indie thrills of 2004 to date. Behind Nikki, the rhythm section drag their feet and the guitar spiders along, just like the Pavement of ‘Slanted and Enchanted’. This EP is retro, in that it stubbornly holds onto certain lo-fi values, which survive even an Abbey Road remaster/makeover.
Track three, ‘Anamoy’, has a nice Vaudevillian edge, which reminds you that Owen of ex-Chemikal Underground weird-indie mavericks Magoo was at the recording controls. When KaitO are good, they show you what’s great about this sort of English musical nonconformity and eccentricity.
By the time EP closer ‘Try Me Out’ gets to its swampy, shouty coda, I’d had enough of it, which makes me wonder how KaitO’s obvious relish in their own spikiness will make them sound over an LP. But the coy, killer pop punch and veiled guitar nastiness on display here provides ample evidence of KaitO's originality and style.