Although Danish five-piece The Kissaway Trail have proven themselves to be a massively accomplished live act – recent turns at various venues across London have been witnessed by DiS, and they’ve seemed better each time – their self-titled debut album doesn’t quite capture the engrossing ferocity and touching intricacies of their on-stage splendour.
It’s not bad at all, but anyone whose witnessed the band live prior to listening to its eleven tracks will, most probably, feel a little short-changed. Opening in hair-prickling fashion with ‘Forever Turned Out To Be Too Long’, the record sets its overall, overriding tone early: this is music designed to be epic turned down ever so slightly and re-geared for utmost intimacy. It’s music to be thought through and soaked in, music to fall in and out of love with a dozen could-be partners to, music to soundtrack the passing of ships in the night. Lead single ‘Smother + Evil = Hurt’ is an exercise in perfect heartstring plucking – it squeezes your insides and makes you ache to be held, but it’s only half as powerful on this LP as it is when executed before your eyes as well as your ears.
The sole flaw of this record, then, is one of its creators’ own making: they’ve established such a fine reputation for themselves in the live arena – their set at The Camden Crawl being a particular highlight of late – that their studio work can only exist in their on-the-road shadow. It’s full of finely tuned, stomach-stirring indie-rock vaguely a la Arcade Fire if they’d bypassed widespread recognition for a career on the Deep Elm label, or The Appleseed Cast before they shuttled too far from Earth’s orbit, but few songs truly stand out; it’s a record of a generally consistent quality rather than a tumultous series of peaks and relative troughs.
‘Sometimes I’m Always Black’ is a cut above the rest, though – propulsive drums guide a gradually building, steadily soaring song to a climax that could, conceivably, have ended the album. Live, it’s way beyond a mere corker – it’s the set’s shining centrepiece. Here, at track eight of eleven, it feels underused. Actual closer ‘Bleeding Hearts’, pretty though it most certainly is, is a parting shot that really doesn’t do The Kissaway Trail justice – it’s so wet a dozen white towels from backstage couldn’t dry it out. ‘Soul Assasins’, meanwhile, is the only skip this now offering: it simply should not have made the final sequencing.
The Kissaway Trail is something of a frustrating listen, then – it’s a very good debut, a very good debut, but one that’s lacking in the bombast department; it’s a rather flat representation of a band that, live, can truly steal the breath away from all attendees before them. As a foundation for an absolutely stunning sophomore, though, this is good enough for sure.
7Mike Diver's Score