Some of us weren’t all that disappointed when the pop-punk craze died off. It seemed like the worst of both worlds, the repetitiveness of punk songs crossed with the pervasiveness of pop acts, four chords to a verse that only ever seemed to go higher or lower than the last, so that the radios started to sound like a musical version of Play Your Cards Right. It would seem then a damning indictment to now point out that Kate’s Party draw their dominating influences from this music.
But alas ‘Hollow’ is not the sound of an aesthetic being co-opted and redeployed like some sort of unexploded grenade in the war of musical originality. The four-piece setup of Kate’s Party may not have landed on a massively original sound, but they have done the harder task, and found an identity that is decidedly their own.
This identity is what makes their debut album worth hearing and it’s evident from the very opening notes. The drums on Welcome to Seahaven rumble in loosely, almost arrhythmically, and just as you’re trying to decide whether it sounds right or not along come Sarah Corcoran’s nasal vocals, that sound so natural and untrained that again you’re thinking “is this right?”
It’s this raw and untrained sound that gives ‘Hollow’ its strength. The pop-punk ethos that Kate’s Party draw from is there to be heard, but at the same time they’re subverting it, skimming along the edge of the mould rather than letting themselves be shaped by it. Gone is the maddening sheen and self-consciousness inherent to those ’90s faux-punks, replaced by a simplicity and unpretentiousness that’s there on the bass-line on Paper & Glue, the metal-style guitars that open End Scene and the vocal melody of the standout Bicycle For Three.
Only adding to this effect are the stream-of-consciousness lyrics which don’t sprawl outwards in the spirit of exploration like a section of Joyce, instead seeming to spiral inwards with a kind of artless angst. They don’t really hold up under scrutiny as they seem to be words that spilled out rather than ones that were laboured over, but this has the effect of adding to the immediacy of the songs. This is visceral music, and certainly more suited to the atmosphere of a live arena than to an attentive listening on a pair of headphones.
So what – as we must perpetually ask of each album that crosses our paths – is the potential of Kate’s Party? Where do they have to go? Better lyrics would be no harm, but that’s nothing a quick read through the Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud couldn’t fix. Also, the fact that ‘Hollow’ stands slightly to the left of formulaic means a reversion to genre stereotypes is a grave possibility. For the time being however the vitality of the music on ‘Hollow’ should be able to satisfy the less cynical members of the listening community.