Kicker - Rendered Obsolete (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Rendered Obsolete (2016)

Tankcrimes / Pirate's Press

What’s most striking about Kicker’s second LP, Rendered Obsolete is how the band is branching out, right under our very noses. At first glance, Rendered Obsolete is very much a sequel to their excellent debut, Not You. The band still pays homage to the golden era of punk rock, snapping between a Sex Pistol-ey dedication to rock in its purest form and a UK82 style hard smash. This music is fast and vicious, but perhaps unlike contemporary bands, Kicker aren’t ashamed of the rock in punk rock and use Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richards’ invention to great effect- albeit the invention is shrouded in beer covered spiked leather and denim.

Frontman Pete the Roadie, who has made a career of rodieing for punk bands including Subhumans, Amebix, Jello, and Fugazi since ’78 is still in pure Pete mode. Pete’s greatest asset is that there is no artifice in his delivery. Pete is an English bloke that has made a living out of supporting the punk titans and he’s fully aware of the virtues and vices of this lifestyle. By osmosis, Pete has absorbed the style of the early crusty crew without falling prey to imitation. When Pete bemoans the destruction of the modern workforce on the title track, he’s barking and spitting like Dick Lucas and Steve Ignorant, but it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to sound like those guys- it sounds like it’s coming from his guts… and that’s because it is. Fully aware of his station, Pete revels in the trappings that make punk so great, lovingly snapping hard refrain and shredding his vocals as songs tumble to the end, but he’s fully aware that punk rock does have humor about itself and for every finger point, Pete is sure offer a wink at the audience.

The band too, is in fine form. Guitarist Mauz who rose to (punk) fame in Dystopia flexes his anarcho-meets-crust chops. “Brown Bread” is built around a classic gothic spiral, but “Full English” is a full on charger, with Mauz supplementing skill for violence, and it works. Bassist Dave Ed likewise shows why he can roll with the Neurosis crew and with the JFC gang. Ed is the champion of ambiance (as he’s shown time and time again in his main gig) but he’s also able to shift to a classic snappy punk jig. This skill keeps the music heavy, but also keeps the momentum going. Likewise, drummer Toby, who recently stepped down from his Kicker duties, seemingly realizes that this is his curtain call and really bashes those skins. But, Toby quite masterfully, plays drums like drums should be played. When the songs need room to breathe, he backs off. Yet, when noise is required, Toby brings the heat, resulting in a dynamic sound that few hard records really have.

But, for all the band’s classic technique, the slyly disguise their real play here. Yes, the band still are stalwart defenders of punk and all the warts that come with it. But, they’re also interested in growing this thing from within. You need look no farther than opening track than “You can’t take me anywhere” to hear that the band is getting a little rowdier and is more likely to fly off the hinges. They still stick to a three chord smash, but at the song’s edges, the band strays away more and more, resulting ina noisier and more intense release. Likewise, the aforementioned “Brown Bread” flirts with an almost metallic style without being metal. “Timeless Cliches” has Mauz and Dave Ed taking their instruments and wandering away from the beat, only to rush back, resulting in a hard driving number the ever-so-slightly suggests an affinity for unusual composition ala Zappa, Beefheart, and Residents…

Pete, too, has become more wiry. “Timeless Cliches” has Pete on the edge of a nervous breakdown and “Full English” finds him steadfastly demanding breakfast preparation. Sure, it’s a little silly, as it’s supposed to be, but whereas older tune “Lager and Chips” was an ode to how great the meal is, “Full English” is angry demand. He also takes a more direct political stance than before, popping shots off at Trump and other blustering politicians.

There’s still a great deal of fun to be had here, but if you really focus, the band seems to be looking deeper towards themselves. And that’s really the trick. As you find yourself pogoing across the room with a lager in your hand, you might pause, for a second, and find something truly profound in a hard-traveled punk’s breakfast order. Kicker isn’t going to spell it out for you, and that’s why this band is both classic and unqiue.