Record of the Month
The Cool Kids
Irina Dunn once said: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”. But, hey, give a fish a fixie and who knows what japes may occur. It might not need it but then it might just like it – at the very least, that’s a spectacle right there. Bear with me on this tenuous link – ‘When Fish Ride Bicycles’ likewise points to a duo unconcerned with the status quo and more concerned with, well, what if? What if they put an album together that sounds remarkably dissimilar to a lot of hip-hop at the moment but that also, weirdly, feels remarkably reminiscent? What if…?
Enter Antoine ‘Sir Michael Rocks’ Reed and Evan ‘Chuck Inglish’ Ingersoll – AKA: The Cool Kids. One thing’s for certain, you’ve got to be pretty self-assured to even try to get away with a name like that. And with this long-overdue debut (give or take a few years from when first touted) full of swagger, it would be remiss of me to suggest otherwise. In truth, it’s an album that rolls effortlessly from track to track, seldom missing a beat. Still, in light of its title – and album cover which ranks as a formidable contender as one of the year’s best yet – this is hardly an act that needs to be made aware of the irony of its self-reverential monikers.
From the ka-pow punches and nod-ya-head bounce of ‘Rush Hour Traffic’ through to the breezy end-track, ‘Summer Jam’ (more on that later) there’s a sense of nostalgia that pumps through the veins of this LP. Looming synth litters ‘GMC’ while ‘Boomin’ is a seriously fun piece of smooth pop; Tennille adding her vocals to the laidback flow and guitar licks.
Mayer Hawthorne’s appearance is gladly received on the electro-soul of ‘Swimsuits’ with its seriously-cooler-than-thou chorus. A perfect two-and-a-half mins spent singing about – and I could be mistaken here – swimsuits. World peace might not be on the current agenda (that’s a given) but it still sounds pretty darn fine to me.
It’s not all plain sailing though. Travis Barker’s guest appearance on ‘Sour Apples’ feels less impressive than you’d want it to be (let’s face it, his reputation rather precedes itself). Also, despite its slo-mo Housequake bruising beats, ‘Bundle Up’ lacks the excitement of other tracks. I’m being picky and, as much as anything, an awful lot pales in comparison when compared to catch of the day, “Penny Hardaway” (featuring Ghostface Killah). Its steel drum fanfare instantly identifies it as a massive track. Against the stuttering drum pattern, the languid vocals work overtime against the abrasive, explosive beats. That Cool Kids moniker suddenly doesn’t seem quite so tinged with irony anymore.
Elsewhere, piano loops lead ‘Roll Call’ down sentimental avenue with multiple MC interchanges, and The Neptunes-produced ‘Get Right’ is so, well, Neptunes it’s not even funny. Still they’ve been curiously absent for long enough to realise once again just how effortlessly crisp their space-age contributions sound. ‘Get Right’ is no exception to the rule and a funky clavinet riff courses through the track. Likewise, their work on the final number (‘Summer Jam’) is similarly impressive. Sounding like Jay Dee era The Pharcyde (hook sample: “In the summertime / I can feel it and I barely breathe”), a hazy reverb gives it that lazy sunny-season feel to end the album.
In short, it’s an LP with which one feels fairly at home. More often than not, beats are catchy and each hook and line sinks with aplomb. If this is what happens when fish ride bicycles, then saddle up my aquatic friends. It’s going to be a fun ride.
Words: Ben Nicholas
‘When Fish Ride Bicycles’ is out now on Green Label Sound Records.