Album: The Kittyhawks – From Brass To Bullets

The Kittyhawks are the first ska band I’ve heard from Australia, and their debut album launched on March 1st. Having not heard of them, but seeing their album on a new ska releases list, I decided to check them out with absolutely no preconceived expectations other than knowing it would be ska. It wasn’t long before I realized I had found a fun, talented, and lighthearted ska band that doesn’t take itself too seriously, shows off their influences, and has a good time doing it. 

The album begins with a movie sample from 1959’s “The Atomic Submarine”- “It was foolish. It was insane. It was fantastic. But it was their only hope”. It’s a great sample, and it did its job- I’m intrigued and I want to find out more. A single strum on a guitar, reminiscent of a western song adds to the mood before some plucking builds anticipation. I feel like this is going to be big. Drums and a horn come in to remove the country and western theme, but the song still sounds a little dark and ominous. A slow ska riff pucks up on the guitar and drums as the horns become more prominent, and after you resign yourself to accepting this is an instrumental track to set the mood and two minutes pass, the pace picks up and we are introduced to our first lyrics. A low, gravelly voice sets the scene “Through the dark of the night…” the tension builds as the vocals continue setting mood before gang vocals erupt “WE ATTACK AT DAWN” and jazz trumpets shift the tone over a continued syncopated ska rhythm.

At this point I thought I had a general expectation of what the Kittyhawks might sound like, but that illusion is shattered by the first note of the second track. Femme vocals lead the first note of “Danger in the Middle” and I immediately realize that the band has two lead singers, and it is later revealed that the vocalists share the lead pretty evenly throughout the album. The second song is much more upbeat than the first track and feels like a more traditional Orange County 90s-2010s ska sound. The chorus is excellent with a call and response between the masc vocals doing the call and the femme offering a response. The keys on this track offer some texture and there is a portion in the third time through the chorus where all of the music drops out except for the persistent beating of the drums before building us back in and finishing the song strong, but overall, the song feels like it was lacking something.

Por Què No?” has more than the name in spanish, but has the feel and tempo of a Los Angeles Latin ska song. Even before the first vocal hits, the vibe feels right for a Laton ska song- but the chorus of “Por Que No, I don’t speak Español” and the song about lamenting not being able to write a good song in Spanish feels like a swing and a miss- even as the keys, horns, and vocals all nail the general sound. It’s probably my favorite song on the album, when it comes to composition. 

Switching gears again, “Speed Dating For Serial Killers” is a fun song where both singers have verses claiming that people never see them for who they are, but turns the narrative on its head when they both claim to be serial killers, but people always make the mistake of trusting them. The horns in this song seem to riff on the melody of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”.

The album ends with a bonus song, “Seamus”- an absurd and ridiculous shanty of a song about a little pig whose name is Seamus- a pig that’s got no anus. This ditty got stuck in my head after the first listen, and I woke up the next morning singing the song still. The song is foolish. The song is insane. It was fantastic, and it was their only hope. Oh wait, that’s how this all started.

While everything on the album was good, it still felt like it was always missing something. The vocals and their ability to play off of each other was great. I like how they are able to style the songs off of their different ska influences. Every piece of this band was solid, from  the brass and keys to the guitars, bass, and drums. The production quality was great and the album doesn’t feel too crowded. I just wish it would have pushed the boundaries a little more, or included more influences from outside of ska. Something to make it stand out from the influences that shaped it. Regardless, I feel like the Kittyhawks are incredibly talented and I can’t wait to hear what they do next, and I have already added them to my rotation of bands to listen to.

Written by Gimpleg

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