Album Review: Kindest Lines - Covered In Dust
In case you've been in a coma for the past few years, the eighties have come back into fashion in music in a big way - or, to put it another way, they have put the ‘fashion’ back into music, with acts now cradling vintage synthesizers and second-hand drum machines as though their next magazine cover shoot depended on it. As with most such things, some of these throwbacks manage to ignite a genuinely wonderful sense of nostalgia, while others end up sounding (and looking) borderline absurd. Into this already overcrowded arena emerge Louisiana synthpop trio Kindest Lines, whose debut LP is very much structured around the stylings and effects of that beloved era.
‘Hazy Haze’ unashamedly kicks off proceedings with that classic - albeit slightly overused - Ronettes/Jesus and Mary Chain dum-dadum-tisch beat (you know the one, kids!) as a swell of synths is backed by Chorus-laden guitars that are a carbon copy of any prime-era Cure song. Surely this template has to have been legally trademarked by Robert Smith Inc. by now? The sultry mid-eighties effect is then furthered on ‘Destructive Paths to Live Happily’, which sees Brittany Terry's under-mixed new wave vocals intone the mantra “Future is real”. Such ethereal, misty vocal effects can be a joy in the right hands (viz. Grouper's Liz Harris or Balam Acab); sadly, however, on the likes of ‘Strange Birds’ they do little to further Kindest Lines' sound, distracting the listener from the music rather than providing a means of engagement.
Elsewhere, it's not overstating things to suggest that ‘Running into Next Year’ could easily pass for a well-meaning modern-day interpretation of any track from Disintegration, such is the debt the song owes to Smith's magnum opus. Blatant plagiarism aside, though, it is Terry's aforementioned vocals on each track that let the band down most of all. They are more or less lifeless throughout, and with them so heavily buried beneath the music, the singer might just as well be going through the motions (or phonebook, for that matter).
That's not to say that there are simply 'no good songs' on this record: ‘Dark Dream’ and ‘Baltimore’ both throw some mildly charming and atmospheric pop shapes, the sum of their parts seeming to add up nicely. Sadly, there aren’t nearly enough of these highlights across an eleven-song album to save the day.
Ultimately, while Kindest Lines operate in the same realm as bands like Twin Sister and Wild Nothing, they lack sufficient definition and dynamics to match the standard set by such feted outfits. At times some of Covered In Dust's moody textures may cause your foot to tap or head to nod, but overall the album shows little if any of the fearless ambition you’d hope for from a debut.