THE LOUNGE KITTENS
2016 has already seen the release of 'Did You Mrs. Me?', the second album from Italy's Driving Mrs. Satan, a quartet of super-talented de-metalizers, whose innovative alt-pop takes on a variety of classic metal tunes was simply sublime. Now we have de-metalized sublimity expressed and exercised in an entirely different form, courtesy of The Lounge Kittens. Mid-September will see the release of this UK trio's debut album, 'Sequins and C-Bombs' and it's not merely de-metalization at work here. Iconic, popular songs from a wide array of genres have also been de-rocked, de-hip-hopped, de-punked, de-whatevered and certainly, at times, deranged, with their lounge, boogie-woogie and punk cabaret transformations.
Lounge music versions of metal songs are nothing new, of course. I mean, who can ever forget The Chaser's genius transformation, and concomitant viral video, of Cannibal Corpse's 'Rancid Amputation'? And The Lounge Kittens themselves describe their music as: "Imagine if Richard Cheese seduced all three of the Andrews Sisters...and each had a little Lounge Baby." With the former being the alter ego of Mark Jonathan Davis, who's made a career by rearranging various popular tunes in lounge music stylings, it's wise acknowledgement of this forerunner. However, the twist in their aesthetic is with the latter, The Andrews Sisters, who were a trio of siblings exercising their three-way close harmonies within the swing and boogie-woogie genres. Now, that is something different - at least to the extent and unmitigated skill in how The Lounge Kittens are combining all these elements.
The malleability of a well-written rock/metal song, and songs from other styles of music, should never be underestimated. If the composition is a good one in the first place, regardless of whatever style within which it's executed, then there's no reason why it shouldn't be able to work as well in disparate genre transformations. However, it's still a veritable skill to successfully transform the style of an established classic, and rearrange the composition for your own genre-based proclivities. So, it should also not be underestimated just what The Lounge Kittens have achieved on 'Sequins & C-Bombs'. This is an incredibly inventive and innovative suite of reimagined iconic tunes that are simultaneously charming, sonically exquisite and refreshingly cool.
Jenny Deacon, Timia Gwendoline and Zan Lawther are the three ladies responsible for this incredible work. And, it must be said, The Lounge Kittens are in no small way a one-trick pony, and somehow transcend novelty act trappings. Sure, there's a gimmick at work here but that's merely surface stuff we're talking about. In their music and vocal arrangements is a surprising amount of emotional depth. There's also a surprising amount of diversity in both moods and stylistic traits in their interpretations. Further, and what keeps the album from working off a simple two-dimensional gimmick is how the tone switches between the serious and the fun throughout. Just take the melancholic sways of their take on The Offsping's 'Want You Bad', or their emotionally moving rendition of Toto's 'Africa', as prime examples of The Lounge Kittens at their most serious. But that's all counterbalanced with the fun they have with the likes of Metallica's 'Sad But True', where they even inject a bit of a James Hetfield inflection and intonation in their delivery of various lines. And then there's the purely unhinged stuff, where songs have not just been transformed and rearranged but, at times, deranged, where they've embellished them with a charmingly batty spin. System of a Down's 'Bounce' is a fine example of this, particularly with its vocal derangement of the "pogo, pogo, pogo" etc lyrics, and the song, as a whole, lies somewhere between Emilie Autumn's more theatrically swayed musical moments, and the punk cabaret of Amanda Palmer.
On the whole, 'Sequins and C-Bombs' has minimalist instrumentations throughout - which is, basically, 95 per cent piano - although it's the vocals that propel the album along. Take away the minimalist instrumentations and the 3-way vocal harmonies, at times, feel like pure a cappella splendour with added quirks, such as where the girls solo with their voices on AC/DC's 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'. There are occasional moments where they beef up the instrumentations - notably with the percussion on 'Jump Around', and a rocked-up backing on their medley of Prodigy hits. The latter is, for want of a better phrase, fucking spectacular... verging on genius. But, again, it goes back to the undeniably awesome skills these ladies have, beyond their axiomatic, wide-ranging vocal talents. Their reimagining of each and every song is a winner. They've even, somehow, made a Mumford & Sons track sound beautiful, with a near-lullaby take on 'The Cave'.
Overall, 'Sequins and C-Bombs' is a masterful work and, as a debut album, simply phenomenal. With the direct praise these ladies have received from the likes of Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst, and Slipknot's Corey Taylor, for versions of their songs, it's a PR push that's well deserved... albeit quoting the former as just saying "Loving it" is somehow akin to Shakin' Stevens' commendation of Alan Partridge's autobiography with his "Lovely stuff" appraisal! Now, there's a thought - maybe a little bit of 'Green Door' or 'Merry Christmas Everyone' on the next album. Then again, maybe not.
SEQUINS & C-BOMBS
Review by Mark Holmes
16th Sept 2016
1) Poison; 2) Bounce
3) Yeah; 4) Jump Around
5) Love is Only a Feeling
6) Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
8) Smack My Firestarter to Outer Space
9) Bodies; 10) Want You Bad
11) Changes; 12) Sad But True
14) The Cave
15) The Beautiful People
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"This is an incredibly inventive and innovative suite of reimagined iconic tunes that are simultaneously charming, sonically exquisite and refreshingly cool."