The Kickz - Activate Me (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Kickz

Activate Me (2004)


In the context of rock and roll, what can be said about youth? Quite a bit, actually, but more specifically, what can be said to be the advantage of youth? That question can be answered in part by The Kickz, a quartet out of Dallas, Texas whose lineup is made of high school kids, well three out of the four. But don't allow the age to be a turn-off, these guys can play, and the writing ain't bad at all. Recorded in one day, Activate Me is an energetic rock record that showcases the ambition and blissful abandonment of four young men who take absolute pleasure in the activity that is manipulating noise.

Dream big, play big, and figure the rest out later is the adolescent personality in a nutshell and damn it's exciting to witness someone who hasn't yet grown into his own attempt to take on the world. The downside to youth, in all matters, is lack of experience, for although The Kickz certainly bring The Clash to mind and at times even The Replacements, they've had maybe a couple of years exposure to Joe and Paul, and it takes more than acquaintance to achieve understanding, and it's the latter that overcomes imitation and leads to innovation. Chances are they've only been familiar with their respective instruments for a short time as well, but is this a problem? Of course not, we all need to start somewhere, but young rockers like Ian (vocals, guitar), Ray (guitar, vocals), Chris (bass), and John (drums) who grab the energy they feel from the masters and run with it are not only exciting but promising, and if they keep the work as the forefront, we could hear some great music from Texas in the not-too-distant future.

"Too Fast" is a composition and performance that is miles away from any talent show, and the singing on "Criminal" is really damn good. In fact, every tune on this EP is solid, and the playing is very tight (I give most of the credit to the drumming which is pussy-free, thank you John). But the lyrics are the giveaway with young rock and rollers, for, "Away to jail with no post bail for you boy/Were a boy, now considered a man/You go to jail boy" is very honest in the sentiment, but why jail as the metaphor? One could safely wager money on the fact that aside from a ‘scared straight' field trip, these guys have not stepped foot into a jail cell. Lyrics such as, "Sometimes it feels like it's going too quick/Everyone out there has something to say/One day at home, the next you're on your own/The future seems bleak compared to right now/And I really don't want to grow up" are fairly pedestrian, but they're honest; this is the sound of a seventeen year old putting into words what he feels, or at least what sounds neat. But that's the charm of youth, the imitation and the innocence to just say it, just play it, and enjoy every moment of it. The very advantage of youth is that it is young, it is unspoiled and that pure energy translates beautifully on Activate Me.

Even the few relationship songs are simple and believable which is something most bands struggle with, for, "Teach me how to teach you/Let me know how to make you mine/Help me help you/And let me know if it feels alright" on "Here Today" is nothing too poetic, but it doesn't go too far and doesn't merely stay on the surface. "Cold Last Night" begins with, "I caught a bus downtown to meet you last night/I remember it was cold outside/I waited for awhile but it didn't take long/To see you arrive" and it leaves the scenario there, it doesn't get to the sad-bastard stage and it doesn't get into the ‘one and only' scene either. And underneath these lyrics is some fantastic music, "Here Today" is straight-up Clash-style fusion rock with a well-placed dub snare hit and some fairly wicked guitar work while "Cold Last Night" is played at a quick shuffle, once again a nod to The Clash. But all of this, with its integrity intact, is still the work of young men trying on their father's clothes, however, with time the imitation will end and they'll step out in their own tailored threads and the four will make their own path, assuming they keep the music out front, for The Kickz certainly have the talent and obviously have the ambition and the work ethic which is what's it's all about anyway. What's the old saying? 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration? Well, it's here; I hope they continue to run with it.

If Activate Me is a taste of what's to come, I will be patient and anxious for this quartet from Dallas to grow into men and watch them trample the rock landscape accordingly.