Quirky aggressive-punk troubadour Kino Kimino should not be taken at face value. First off, it’s really a solo project by Kim Talon, with help from members of Sonic Youth and the guy who turns the knobs for Kurt Vile. It’s weird and compelling at times, but weird in that indie way where they are trying super-hard to be different but is possibly just not that compelling.
The song “Pale Calico” is a good place to start if you’re curious. The drums splatter, the guitars rage, but you can’t quite place the influences. Talon has a somewhat operatic voice, but she’s sometimes a bit off and not in a good way. Off in vocal tuning, off in how the song structure matches her musical stylings. This is what makes indie music so frustrating. You want to sound indie, but not too indie. You want to sound like Animal Collective but not so much that you are ripping them off or sound like their cover band. It’s why there are now major Hollywood motion pictures well-funded by studios that want to come off as independent. They’re not, and they might be good movies, but you’ll probably prefer an actual indie. In music, every indie artist is craving some form of artistic authenticity, yet Kino Kimino never reaches that place where it’s different, weird and good. It’s mainly just weird and different.
“Blood Bath” is the song where things start to go south. I get that it’s supposed to be quirky. You can tell Sonic Youth is involved, and there’s enough here to keep you listening. But you can’t get over the weirdness. On “Rosy Rudiger,” the vocals are front and center, but they would have worked better deeper into the mix. There’s a lilt at the end of the vocals that is meant to be cute or precocious but doesn’t really work. “Loincloth” has lines about being “dead in the loins” that maybe come off better in concert with a smirk and a smile, but ultimately makes you want to find anything by Radiohead and play it on earbuds. There’s some sort of comedic vibe at work here, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, but funny-haha can quickly become funny-odd in music, and it’s often hard to tell the difference.
I have a theory about what is happening. Talon has played with bands like Deerhoof and toured with Sia; she’s a bit of a performance artist. Her video for the song “Passion” shows her in a shower talking to the camera but not lip syncing. It’s weird to be weird.
The slight silver lining is that the music on Bait Is for Sissies is always well-produced and holds your attention. If you are a sissy, that’s your bait. Everyone playing on the album and Talon herself have loads of indie credibility, especially on the furious drums that sound like caffeinated chopsticks and the guitar parts that are never as quirky as the vocals. If the song structures and mix were different, maybe the band could have worked better as some sort of instrumental performance art routine where the vocals only serve as a backdrop. Since they are so prominent (and prominently off-kilter), you just keep noticing them.