The Open Feel:
'Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)'
'Alternative, dreamy' 2-piece U.S. rock band pervade a beautiful sound. Don't expect any comparisons with a certain Michigan pair.
Availability: 'Kiss, Kill (Bang to Love)', available at: http://theopenfeel.bandcamp.com/
It was the modern-day philosopher Robert Zimmerman, who said...
in his seminal romance piece 'Absolutely Sweet Marie', that "well, anybody can be like me, obviously/But then, now again, not too many can be like you, fortunately". These are not just well-spun words on love, and the nature of romance and kinship. They were written by a wordsmith of inherent genius and foresight, who was in the middle of a huge wave of a creative firestorm. Dylan had just produced the two finest albums of his young career, and had just completed a terrific trio, when 'Blonde on Blonde', was produced. The legend that is, was on a creative streak of unparalleled precision and drive, and, bolstered by the likes of The Beatles and The Beach Boys (whom were perhaps friends as well as rivals); the lyrics, mention above, had relevance on a personal level in 1966, and have a historical and modern importance now. Outside of love, in the cool waters of the music scene, there is little individuality. In the undergrounds and 'alternative' radio stations, much diversity and quality can be heard. In this country, the predominant mainstream is a beige murk of similar sounds, lack of imagination and purulent egos. Even if one were to have their ears, pressed intently against the rumbling concrete, and their eyes strained whilst looking into a neon night, it is difficult to find bands and artists who are truly captivating and peerless. I have been fortunate enough to have been directed to a number of rather special northern bands, by a rather special person. Short of that, there has been a bit of word of mouth publicity, that has alerted me to top talent, as well as a few rebels who have fallen from a band wagon; deciding to beat the dusky desert road, with little more than a pad of words, and a bag full of old clothes. There has- perhaps ironic to the key context here- been a few artists who have tried to capitulate and emulate Bob Dylan's sound, Jake Bugg is one of them, and grabbing at his coat tails, is a veritable army of 20-something wannabes with guitars, vocals, lyrics, and... let's be honest, little else. Circling to my primary point, whether the lyrics were intended to be ironic or a genuine declaration of passion, lives some mystery in the listener's mind. I have seldom heard or seen any artist or talent who has been able to convey the same potency of Dylan. In the U.S. there is a clandestine room of talent, who have been trying to mount a counterweight trebuchet, and have their artistry embraced by us here in the U.K. I have heard little word of any key emerging talent across the pond... until now.
Following on from a liquidation of some bands and acts, it is invigorating to read about the history and folklore of The Open Feel. For one they have a unique, and rather open-to-interpretation band name, and striking band silks. The artwork to their 2011 E.P., as well as their new single, contains mauve, purples and pinks. There is a femininity as well as a striking romantic endeavour to them. It is not since The Coral's 2004 'min album' 'Nightfreaks and the Sons of Becker' that violet paintwork and dreamy and startling music, has been married so successfully. On their bio page, there is a fever-dream of a line up that included Muse, The Cure and The xx It is estimated that their balance of tones would effortlessly fit in at any venue or festival that housed these artists. Instantly there is a sense of ambition as well as quality. You get the sense that, whatever is lying in wait, is going to be something quite wonderful. It is this hypothetical aggregation of cohorts, as well as a fascinating back story, that demands you sit up and take notes. Vocal/guitar queen Katie Harris joined with her Byzantium band-mate outside of L.A. a little while ago, now. Drum and bass warlord Tom Brayton and his musical sibling embarked on a string of local gigs, before recording music. The couple have been with each other for a number of years, and Katie states that the reason The Open Feel came into existence, was due to a shared desire to see where they could go as a band "with no judgment". Tom explained that the two had been in other bands, and were eager to see what beautiful and unique music they could produce. Having not seen the duo live, I was wondering if there is bass as well as percussion; I was curious if there was any sly flirtation and romantic bi-play between them, and then thought it would be best to curtail any preconceived comparisons The White Stripes. That Detroit pair has a similar allure. Aside from their bizarre insinuation that they were siblings (Jack and Meg used to be married), as well as a militaristic red and white band uniform, the pair had an unadulterated knack for producing fierce, primal blues rock, circa 1930. Aside from a gender-instrument switch around, and a slightly similar influence here and there (as well as a shared love of colour as a metaphor for their music and personalities); there are few similarities. For one, the band embrace technology and social media, instead of wanting to live in the '50s and use the most dust-covered and antiquated recording equipment possible. Katie is blonde, gorgeous and (from corresponding with her a bit recently), approachable, down to earth and very appreciative to anyone willing to crtique and embrace her music. She is a fret wizzard without being aloof and mythical. She is honest and a skilled songwriter with a flair for brilliant titles, sharp and stunning shades, as well as a passion for being unique. Tom is a little less photographed, but no less alluring. He is not a near-mute like Meg was, nor sublimated or subjugated to the supporting cast; swept into a shadow and destined to play the pantomime role of The Heliotrope Sticksman. Since their eponymous release, and a spell of dates around Los Angeles and Los Vegas, the pair superseded the musical gentrification with their staunch work ethic, before they hunkered down to record, what is to become their knew album, 'The Thunder Underground'. With a business plan that includes new singles every 6-8 weeks; a purple-toned paint chart, that would even have the mauve homonculous Prince green with envy; as well as a dynamic and cohabit a combination of intelligent lyrics, memorable tunes, and a noise that will stick in your skull for months to come, the pair are a giant prospect. The infinite regress, American bourbon and Baby Ruth flavour notes, and the intoxicating beauty, intelligence and surge of their front-woman, and mega talent of her male muse, means that the clubs, bars and hideaways of Orange Country may be a past curiosity reserved for prosperity and future homecomings. They are going to be embraced and pulled across the ocean by inhabitants of Landan (sic.) Town. From there Europe will catch on; Asia and Africa will fall lustfully enamoured, before the Australasians take them against their bosom and promise a safe and loving home.
The Open Feel, in itself, is a curiously interpretative name. Equivocal to their sound and sex appeals, the bank moniker could either be a self-help guide or a sex position. It has an undefinable curating of the sensual and spiritual. The duo have created a sonic Butterfly Affect. They are a winged insect with a shotgun; graceful and pure, yet armed with an arsenal of potential fury. They also, can cause a chain reaction of biblical proportions. When the music is more widely-heard the resultant snowball will roll; creating new songs for bands, as well as influence existing acts. 'Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)', has a reliably striking title, and spares no time in getting down to business. There is but the briefest intros- and electric and drum combination that swings and rollicks with the intent and strength of an icebreaker. Katie's vocal has honey tones, but also some authoritative force to it as well. The drum is a gun fire, and is punctuated; which elevates and supports the vocal brilliantly; it is fun and loose at the same time. The lyrics are wonderfully oblique, poetic, and intelligent: "It's like I'm walking on a wire/Above a two-sided face" is the opening gambit; and one of the sharpish and most interesting lyrics I have heard all year. Our heroine is able to take your mind somewhere else, and picture the words she is singing. I get the sense there is anxiety and fear in her heart, as well as an interchangeable emotional shift. She is, as she attests, "one breath from a smile to a cry". The vocal tones have a pleasing originality. There is a little bit of Fleetwood Mac, a tiny bit of Alison Mosshart, The xx to the way the sultry is mixed with fiery. The chorus has an uplifting edge, and with some backing vocals, I am reminded of early career U2, as well as the guardians of the female solo market: Patti Smith, P.J. Harvey and Laura Marling. The chorus lifts the pace from the verses and adds a rawer and harder edge. Like U2, who used the words 'kiss me' and 'kill me' to great effect, it is safe to say that "Kiss me, kill me now/Break me down to dust", is more thought-provoking and sterling than anything Bono penned for his song. The guitar and drum combination has an edge of Radiohead and Jeff Buckley. There is a edge of the former's 'The Bends' experimentation, and the latter's self-penned songs around the time 'Grace' was being toured. There is energy and a soulful kinship between the two; they are well rehearsed and completely in tune with each other, and create a splendid sound. I can hear influences of Patti Smith during the verses. There is a similar punk edge and smoky seductiveness, yet Harris has more sweetness and vulnerability. In spite of the forbidding and haunted edge to the lyrics, there is never any depression or horror to the mood. The sound is lighter and more uplifting- sort of Keane-cum-lighter xx-cum- The Pretenders. The entire track is under 4 minutes, and it manages to employ a verse-chorus-verse formation, yet rise above the current crop with ease. This is down to how the song is delivered. The music is engaging and well structured. The guitar is hard-edged and strong, but has a softer sensibility as well. The percussion is solid and intriguing; it aids and abates the mood of the track, yet never tries to steal focus. The lyrics are stunning throughout, and sway between saddened: "And the tiny light that remains in my heart", mingles with redemptive ("Bring me back to love"). The chorus is memorable and will stick in your head for a while. This is a band who know how to send a message and be remembered in a short time, and combine lyrics, music and vocal to huge affect.
In a black market of music, there is little since of authenticity, quality or fair pricing. Musical ambition and success runs perpendicular to market forces and trends. Longevity relies upon being able to remain at the top of your game, yet able to move- if necessary- with any fashion changes. There is a sense of free-spirit mixing with neat (pun intended) intoxication. The song, ensuing album, and band will ensure a trickle-down, cobweb affect. Other bands will be invigorated and new acts will be inspired and revitalised, too. It is not an 'aeroplane version', Disney-esque, straight-to-DVD of a production. This is genuine, and plot-driven, with no holes or hollowness. If Pontius Pilate is the metaphysical representation of the fiscal strain and harsh force that operates and hovers over music, then it is bands such as The Open Force, which will force about a salvation, and Resurrection. Before I sum up, I'd like to use myself as a study in context, contradictions, juxtaposition and ill-fate. Aesthetically and looks-wise do not do too badly for attention or endeavour, yet hated by the camera and always self-deprecating and neurotic when it comes to assessing my looks myself. In terms of love, am single, yet fascinated and in awe of two different woman, neither of whom will ever be obtainable, or mine. I'd consider myself pretty smart, all-rounded and have great advantages over most people, yet am out of work, and unhappy. Vocally I have an odd, eidetic, 'freaky' ability- not boasting, I just disturb myself. Yet, have not the money nor sheer confidence to record, and the audio equipment has a similar disdain for me as the camera. Seemingly everything I should do or could do, I can't or won't achieve. Yet everything I already have or seem to posses, or subjected to modesty, personal uncertainty and lack of confidence and money. I do not believe in fate, destiny, karma, 'everything happens for a reason', astrology, psychics or any untested, improvable or sheer illogical or woeful concept. Yet at the same time I have a huge faith in the potential of bands who deserve it. I mention this parable, as the band have no agenda, or no personal contradictions. Anything they want; they will get. Any pains that are reflected in the song, will be blown away and validated by the like-minded and those in awe. They can do all they set out to do, and are not encumbered by personal demons. They can embrace them and employ them to beautiful affect.
In the words of Troilus and Cressida: "Fear not my truth: the moral of my wit is "plain and true". The twosome have an honest and bare honesty, with a lot of truth, but also some fiction. Within their sharp and studied lines, and pioneering intelligence, there is nothing to be afraid of; it is all-embracing. There is a highly unique and original air to 'Kiss, Kill (Back to Love)'. I am sure that there will be cross-Atlantic appeal and fanfare awaiting. I hope so anyway. Churchill said that "the English never draw a line without blurring it". I shall do my best to get my countrymen and women on board, and spread the word. It is free to listen to, so listen to them...
... and fall in love with them.