Review by Paul Broome
Back in the late 80s and early 90s Kitchens of Distinction were one of those bands that when you discovered them you felt like you’d been admitted to a special select party. Despite folding in 1996 their influence has been undeniable on the likes of Radiohead, Elbow and Suede (and the shoegazers that came before them), their expansive, innovative compositions and unabashed Britishness sounded as fresh then as it does now.
And so, as if from nowhere, 17 years after their last release they have re-emerged with a whole album of fresh material. On the back of several other high profile reformations – this was the one that really excited me, and immediately upon hitting play my faith was rewarded.
‘Oak Tree’ kicks in with a sense of the pure pastoral – it is quintessentially English. It evokes the harvest festival, the dappled sunlight in a glade, the village green – but as it progresses a subtle chaos and darkness emerges from the depths. It’s like that opening scene of David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ – only relocated to the Cotswolds. This is one of KoD’s talents, and one that is as strong now as it was back in the day, their songs are organic they are relatable and comfortable but also surprising and laden with intrigue. Patrick Fitzgerald’s voice remains a unique tool, and now contains the added confidence and depth of an additional couple of decades.
‘Extravagence’ is the epic single that Tim Booth and James would kill for in 2013 – layers and layers of guitars swathe a dancing bass-line as Fitzgerald sings of “emaciated spectres” with “cool tattooed eyes”. It’s a true thing of beauty. And the highlights keep coming, from the delicate moments of ‘Photographing Rain’ through the cosmos-encompassing and glam-revering Bowie-esque ‘Japan To Jupiter’ (the new single) to the angular and symphonic ‘Wolves/Crows’ – which is probably my highlight of highlights. 4 minutes 46 seconds of pure perfection. There are so many guitars on this album, it’s truly astounding – most of them are barely perceptible, but every one of them is vital. Ribbons of reverb; screeches of feedback; acoustic rhythms; delicate harmonies; shrieking melodies: all balanced perfectly and forming a delicate palette for these modern masterpieces.
‘No Longer Elastic’ pares the palette back but adds a superb string arrangement, pushing Fitzgerald’s delicate vocals to the foreground. In my little head ‘I Wish It Would Snow’ will become the Christmas number one for 2013, and it will herald unconditional world peace. ‘Tiny Moments Tiny Omens’ is a convertible car ride through a warm autumnal English landscape, and closer ‘The Most Beautiful Day’… well, far be it for me to adopt the lazy journalistic trait of trotting out that Ronseal motto, but suffice to say it’s lush to the max.
In many ways Kitchens of Distinction inhabit the same realm as another of my favourite enduring and under-appreciated 1980s bands, And Also the Trees – although with a little more of a pop sensibility. This, my friends, is how you do lush grandiosity without descending into rank pomposity. No one else does it like them, and we should thank the Heavens that they’ve come back and given us a second chance to appreciate them.
9 out of 10
- Oak Tree
- Photographing Rain
- Japan To Jupiter
- No Longer Elastic
- I Wish It Would Snow
- Tiny Moments Tiny Omens
- The Most Beautiful Day