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While I am famed (and I use the term loosely) for my love of nerdcore hip-hop, my own musical history skews much more toward punk rock and power pop. As such, I am easily as big a fan of acts like The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets or Jonathan Coulton as I am artists like MC Frontalot or Dual Core.
Sadly, with the demise of nerdcore giants Optimus Rhyme, I found myself with a perfect band-shaped hole in my heart with regard to geek music mecca Seattle. Thankfully, local rock ‘n’ roll superheroes Kirby Krackle were there fill the void with clever lyrics, tight hooks and a brand new full-length album.
E For Everyone opens with “Vault 101,” a song finely focused on the hero of Fallout 3‘s post-apocalyptic wasteland that owes an obvious musical debt to the band’s grunge progenitors, before segueing into “On And On,” a track that does what no one else has properly managed to do since Quesada, Jemas and Jenkins; it actually paints Wolverine as a complex, sympathetic character. This one-two punch is an amazing start to a phenomenal album, but each suffers a bit due to proximity and a certain unmistakable melodic similarity. From there, however, things only get better.
“Secret Identity” is a love song to the part-time hero that continues to demonstrate he album’s previously established strengths, namely Kyle Stevens’s pitch-perfect vocals and colorful songwriting by the duo of Stevens and
Jim Demonakos. The fourth track, “Roll Over,” kicks these up a notch with the album’s only notable non-family-friendly cut – it is, for those who missed it, essentially a track about drunken debauchery with cartoon characters – and the addition of a guest verse by rapper GMK the Great. Sure, it’s a little bawdy, but it’s also the perfect comic con/bar-room sing-along.
The guys slow it down with “Henchman,” a musical tribute to misguided lackeys that manages to drop in the slightest hint of Beatles’ classic “Come Together” thanks to some clever vocal mastering. From there we are treated to “Ring Capacity,” an early single that was released for free via the band’s site last summer, but a cut that still sounds as great now as it did all those months ago. “Can I Watch You?” is a slowed down, bass-heavy funk piece that puts a humorous slant on Marvel’s intergalactic voyeur Uatu the Watcher, though, unfortunately, it’s chorus also finds Kyle’s voice seeming just a tad strained.
“Take It From Me” brings everything back into the rock ‘n’ roll vein with lyrics centered on that favorite topic of geek rockers everywhere, Mega Man, but Kirby Krackle follow it up with a song about a property no one else would dare touch. “Great Lakes Avengers” relates the pain of third-string superheroes and their laughable team-ups in verse, and, if not the best track on the album outright, damn sure makes a valiant play for the top spot.
Its follow-up, the mellow and acutely self-aware nerd love song “Dusty Cartridges & Long Boxes” is as beautiful as it is ridiculous, and closer “Going Home,” both praises the power of geek community (as keenly demonstrated during this current convention season) and extends that odd emotional resonance to a logical conclusion.
As a man who prides himself on his ability to say in 20 words what could be easily said in two, I’ll break with tradition here and spell it out for you succinctly; E for Everyone is a release that actually manages to live up to its lofty title. Kirby Krackle have produced what I consider to be the first unconditional must-own on 2010. (Beating Frontalot’s own amazing Zero Day to the punch by a full month!)
There are minor gripes, of course – the transition from “Henchman” to “Ring Capacity” is, for example, rather unceremonious – but there is truly not a bad song among its 11 offerings. Each is a perfect nugget of guitar pop glory adorned with the kind of semi-obscure references you’d expect from self professed geek rockers.
E for Everyone is currently available in physical format from CD Baby, and digitally via both iTunes and Amazon MP3. As convenient as the downloadable version is, though, it is important to note that the CD comes with a beautifully rendered cover by underground comic sensation Jim Mahfood that’s much more enjoyable in its full cardboard-y glory.
In summation: whatever your preference in vendor or format, buy this album!
WIRED: tasty pop hooks, tuneful vocals, wonderfully geeky subjects, crisp production
TIRED: drumstick Wolverine claws are so 1992
Review material provided by Kirby Krackle
[This post originally ran in March of 2010.]