Millencolin - Kingwood (Cover Artwork)


Kingwood (2005)

Burning Heart

Opinions seem to widely vary regarding Millencolin, so I'll get a few things out of the way first. Not only is Pennybridge Pioneers my favorite Millencolin album; I also consider it to be a near-flawless masterpiece and a must-own for any punk rock fan. Secondly, Home From Home wasn't entirely bad, just inconsistent. That being said, if "Black Eye" or "Happiness For Dogs" didn't do it for you, you might not find much to like on Kingwood. Finally, if you're waiting for Millencolin to bring back the ska, you're out of luck; there's nary an upstroke to be found on this album.

As promised, Kingwood is a faster, more aggressive offering than the mid-tempo, rock-oriented Home From Home. From the opening track, "Farewell My Hell," Kingwood moves along at a frantic pace, with plenty of driving power chord riffs and anthemic choruses. The balladic "Shut You Out" is one of the few subdued moments among this set, and even the poppier cuts ("Cash Or Clash," "Ray") are loud and punchy. This is far and away Millencolin's best-sounding effort yet; the guitars are big and crunchy, and vocalist Nikola's voice is noticeably clearer than on Home From Home. In short, this album demands to be played loudly. These songs are also more textured than those on previous outings; the eerie guitar feedback sounds at the end of "Novo" and "Stalemate" and the piano in the bridge of "Stalemate" are prime examples of this. It's a subtle change, but a welcome one. There are plenty of good, catchy tunes (and thankfully, very little filler) on Kingwood, such as the anthemic "Birdie" and "Biftek Supernova," which recalls old Bad Religion. The real standout here, however, is the penultimate track, "Mooseman's Jukebox." With its driving shuffle beat, thumping bass line, and a chorus that just begs the listener to sing along, it's impossible to sit still through this song, and I have found myself returning to it more than any other track on this album.

Lyrically, Kingwood has less tongue-in-cheek humor than Millencolin's previous albums. There are no songs about Nintendo, Vulcans, or foxy motor scooters to be found here. Instead, we are given heartfelt, meaningful lyrics about living up to one's potential ("Birdie") or the frustration of feeling constrained by others' expectations ("Ray"). The lone exception might be the aforementioned "Mooseman's Jukebox," the verses of which are simply other bands' song titles cleverly arranged to form rhymes. The other songs, however, are more compelling on an emotional level than much of Millencolin's older material. It's hard to listen to a song like "A Simple Twist Of Hate," with its sense of urgency and anger, and not feel affected in some way.

Beginning with Pennybridge Pioneers, Millencolin have been abandoning their earlier skate-punk leanings in favor of perfecting the art of the straightforward punk rock song, and with Kingwood, this metamorphosis is nearer to completion than ever. It may not topple Pennybridge Pioneers as their best work, but it's a far better foray into this new sound than Home From Home.