Tying a natural disaster’s aftermath to abandonment by a lover comes at the mid-point of The So So Glos’ latest full-length LP, Kamikaze. Documentation of that hurricane-hammered connection in ‘Sunny Side,’ song six, precedes and follows at least a dozen other themes touched on (mostly in just a song) over the New York City-based band’s 12 tracks. The Glos couple briefness with believability in the narrative, making a variety of topics, including heartbreak, technology addiction and even life in a mental rehabilitation center, follow each other as quickly as the power chords which accompany them.
Singer Alex Levine’s efforts as the honest storyteller hold true most during Kamikaze’s second half, but before then the Glos mix their messages, however poignant, with fun delivery. Opener ‘Dancing Industry,’ sounds like “dancing in the streets” when Levine belts the line in the title, while ‘A.D.D. Life’ details what happens when consumerism and reliance on gadgets reach a certain level – we’re actually what’s bought and plugged in. Both tracks stay on course with their messages, but the riffs, chants and wittiness in Levine’s words prevent the Glos from coming off as preachy or too serious.
Until ‘Sunny Side,’ the majority of Kamikaze is pretty bleak, with broad themes and wit (an “until the fat lady sings” colloquialism and comparison between the Book of Revelations and pornography, included). It’s at this point where the Glos’ presentation of their ideas shift. On ‘Cadaver (Career Suicide)’ the group go acoustic,with elegant strings while Levine sings; “How about you save your breath and shout out loud it at the rising sea? / ‘Cause when that hurricane came into Brooklyn all the authorities / said to save what you have in a plastic bag / and I guess there was no more room in yours for me.” It’s a single stanza in the standout song about how hurricanes and heartbreak are hooked together, maybe looked over when Glos move on to another observation.
But Levine is believable throughout, and that’s Kamikaze’s unique quality. Song seven, ‘Kings County II: Ballad of a So So Glo,’ is the best example. The initial verses describe “first-world” narcissists who say with little clue that “life is a dream that’s just living on a screen.” Critiques on tech dependence aren’t sparse in any genre, but the Glos’ next approach show their strength in crafting memorable narratives: Levine lambasts the direction the two characters’ lives took with their screen addiction — but he says he’s “more like those two” and he’d like to admit. There’s depth not normally heard in collections of three-minute tunes, and ‘Fool on the Street’ and ‘Inpatient’ follow with the same storytelling devices, the latter chronicling a band member’s stay at an inpatient mental rehabilitation center.
The weak points come when verses get lost and lose their potency in the slew of themes the Glos reel off. Fortunately, listeners glossing over the messages in this collection are rewarded, with the band’s funny, honest and concise take on what ails people, and the contradictory ways they react to their faults.
Kamikaze is out in the UK on November 25th via Votiv Music.