Agony Shorthand

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Ever search the $1 or $2 CD bins and leave frustrated because you can never pull a single decent CD out of the flotsam, even at such a killer rock-bottom price? The wait is over, folks – because the KENT 3 have yet another CD that’s fallen on deaf ears, even in their native Seattle. During my two years of residence in the rainy city, the Kent 3 were one of the only local bands outside of DEAD MOON & MUDHONEY I’d regular venture out to see. I think I caught them on at least a half-dozen occasions, and every last one was a great time. What does one call the style of rock they play? Garage? I guess….but the likelihood of their having any supporters amongst what we commonly think of as Crypt- or even Estrus-style “garage rockers” is pretty nonexistent. How about ROCK? Sure! Make that raw, occasionally straight-ahead rock seasoned with the weirdest, most obtuse sense of humor and lyrical wordplay you can imagine. These gentlemen are by no means dumb – there’s a sneaking suspicion I have, borne out in their lyrics and even in the twisting but riff-heavy music, that the Kent 3 are playing at a stratified plain just above the one most mortals occupy, and that they are so stifled and frustrated that they throw caution to the wind & just say “fuck it” when it comes time to compose a coherent lyrical or musical narrative. In fact part of the fun of listening to them is trying to figure out where Viv Halogen’s lyrical and philosophical thought train will take you in a song. It’s not meant to be “funny” per se (though it often is anyway), just “interesting”. And I hate lyrics!

This latest one came out in 2002, a good four years after the excellent “Peasant Musik” emerged on Steve Turner (Mudhoney)’s SuperElectro label. I don’t know how I missed it, but then these guys are used to coping with a fairly low profile. Not even sure if they’re around anymore, really. I’d like to know. “Spells” definitely eschews some of the more mid-tempo meanderings of its predecessor for a lot more fired-up aggression, but even that is tempered by titles like “Man In a Woman’s Body” that sort of act as quiet, puzzling interludes for the rest. Halogen has a terrific voice, which is kind of curious when you consider that an incarnation of this band from a decade ago (“Screaming Youth Fantastic” ) practically fell down solely on their then-vocalist’s rotten set of pipes. I have to live with “Spells” some more, but from where I sit today, it’s their most consistent long player to date, Maybe their best. Yet if people truly vote with their wallets, then this is not a very well-appreciated band. You’ll have to factor that against my glowing appraisal and see if it’s worth parting with your dollar when you come across “Spells” in the used CD bins.