Kicker - Pure Drivel (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Pure Drivel (2019)


Like many things, there’s more to Kicker than first glance would suggest. And to that point, their third LP, Pure Drivel underscores this point in black. If you were just flipping through your iPod and lingered on a Kicker tune for 30 seconds or so, you’d probably figure that they were a band of punk and hardcore veterans saluting and dismantling the genre in equal measure. And that’s true, that’s what Kicker is- but that’s not all that Kicker is, by a mile.

After an instrumental opener (that surprisingly has a small touch of surf rock), frontman Pete the Roadie (who has roadied from everyone to Amebix to Subhumans to Jello to Fugazi and back again) comes in with his iconic tar-and-glass bark, as always, coated in his wonderfully working class English accent on “Mrs. Arnold.” In the song, he details his high school math teacher who constantly reprimanded him, forcing him to stand in the closet, yelling at him, and pulling his hair. Pete, who is perennially likeable, delivers the lines with humor and zest, winking at us for being a scoundrel. Of course, the twist of the song is that Mrs. Arnold, in real life, was an axe murderer that killed at least two people in a bloody rage. And here’s where Kicker makes their own strategic strike.

A, perhaps more modern, or more tunnel sighted band, might plainly declare “those that in power are the most corrupt.” In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was stenciled across some crust bands 7-inch. But Kicker, instead of sloganeering, tells a pretty hilarious tale of a young scoundrel Pete. Yet, while Pete is the one in trouble for being so audacious as to not “Show his work” on his math problems, and is thus viewed as the bad guy by society, his highly esteemed teacher is out there doing things unfathomably worse. It’s not hard to draw this metaphor to a macro scale. Instead of ranting from a screed, Kicker get you on their side through a sly form of humor, as aided by some kicking UK82-meets-Oakland crust riffage, and then let you do the mental work.

The band now has Operation Ivy’s Dave Mello behind the kit. He speeds up the band to a degree and gives them a more flighty, spontaneous sound. It’s a nice contrast to the ever evolving interplay of guitarist Mauz (of Dystopia) and bassist Dave Ed (of Neurosis). Tracks like “I Can’t Sleep” and “Monte Rio” find them both keeping that essential low end stomp in the music, but, moreso than before, they’re sliding a sort of ornamentation in between the heated charge. So, when they really rip on “Wankers on the Bus,” and go full on, three chord blast, the band hits the hardest that they’ve ever hit. Pete started as a Roadie to the punk stars and never dreamed of actually being in a band, so it is astounding that Pete, a relatively newbie musician in his fifth or sixth decade, can not only counter the mega-blast strikes, but cuts through with ease and character. Frankly, no one sings quite like Pete, despite that his cadence is modeled off the first and second wave deliveries, and how many classic form punk singers can you really say that about in 2019?

Yes, the band relies on a sort of comedy throughout the album, which is a significant part of its charm. “TL:DR,” instead of them finding the band trying to remain “youthful,” presents them as a pack of grandpas grumbling about the perils of modern technology, as capped off by a classic ’77 slash: “No one gives a fuck about what you think!” But, that’s the trick. Kicker lacerate themselves as much as everyone else with a sort of Don Rickles as Charlie Harper approach. Yet, by somewhat loveably, somewhat scornfully, pointing out humanity’ foibles, they’re not just going for laughs. They’re sliding in profound points –the rapidly approaching end of the world due to greed; the destructively addictive cell phone, corporate pushed prescription drugs – but they’re giving you enough credit to do the final few mental steps on your own. Just as Mrs. Arnold demanded analytical excellence from Pete due to the fact that he was constantly fucking up, now he’s doing the same to you. Yet, while Mrs. Arnold’s aggression came from a place of hate, Pete’s disguised scowling seems to truly come from a place of love. Make him proud.