Wednesday, February 22, 2012

EP review: Cold Blue Kid - 'Mimic'

By Sasha Geffen

It must require some courage, I'd imagine, to take the tight, propulsive pop songs you've written and drop them in a vat of reverb and late-'80s synth glaze. When you're working with hooks, it more often than not serves your interests to keep them clean, sharp, ready to slice through the less interesting noise and dig into the skulls of your listeners. Occasionally, though, it's more interesting to start with pop skeletons and wash them out to the point where they're almost unrecognizable. 

If you recorded Elizabeth Fraser serenading the Antarctic wastes, the result would be less spacey than Cold Blue Kid's Mimic EP. The Chicago quintet, fronted by songsmith Alex Longoria, scopes expansive, glacial terrain throughout their sophomore release. You almost get dizzy trying to parse the edges of each song. They're all full of so much space that it becomes easy to miss the Echo & the Bunnymen-style pop structures nestled at their cores. But they're there, churning up the froth around them, sneaking through in shrouds of steam. Without them, all that haze would  collapse into a puddle of ambiance. Thanks to Longoria's subtle scaffolding, it stays upright.

Like the Cocteau Twins before them, Cold Blue Kid manage to suspend their moodiness in an ethereal timbre. There are points of darkness here, to be sure, but they're hanging in shafts of light. The melancholy remains absolutely weightless. It's not easy to float sadness into the upper atmosphere, but that's exactly what Cold Blue Kid does best of all.

The EP does exhibit a few perplexing tonal choices that disrupt the dream it's trying to seal itself in. The saw wave synth pads and post-punk vox on opener "Hearts of Steel" clash peculiarly with its jangly alt-country guitar leads, and the band swaps out its vocal styles--and vocalists--so frequently that it becomes somewhat difficult to follow a unified emotional narrative. But the moments when every element balances and coalesces into an unbroken mirage make the EP an engaging, transportive endeavor. Mimic could be a Freddy Rupert project sapped of its bite and weight, but it's mostly a dreamy assembly of all the sounds of the '80s that were never once subject to gravity.

Stream the single "Maybe Town" below. If you like what you hear, you can catch Cold Blue Kid live at Schubas tonight at 9pm.

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