Kind of Like Spitting

Kind of Like Spitting

Kind of Like Spitting


The problem with autobiographical songs is that they can sometimes be too autobiographical. Listeners are forced to decipher lyrics like “the giraffe’s blue suit on your 63rd birthday” or “we made cheesecake and then chased the scarecrow to Toronto,” leaving them confined to the periphery before the first chord sounds. It defeats the whole idea of popular music and its implicit accessibility. Why bother to release songs to the public that only you can relate to and understand?

Such is the major flaw of Kind of Like Spitting’s eponymous album, a collection of similar-sounding acoustic numbers performed by the core of KOLS, Ben Barnett. These songs are far different to the type that fans of this Oregon outfit are used to hearing, in addition to being wholly impenetrable in both meaning and tune. Part of reason is that Barnett’s mastery of the electric guitar devolves into minimalism when he’s taken up the acoustic. Ideally these ten tracks should have remained confined to the private archives, to be dusted off for the intimate setlist finales that only die-hard groupies will appreciate.

Kind of Like Spitting features two new songs, “Crossover Potential” (plagiarisingly similar to an old Jawbreaker tune) and “Canoe” (what could be a stripped-down, instrumental “Thumb” by Dinosaur Jr.). Both are unremarkable. An alternate version of “Shuffle, Kick, Hum a Tune,” from You Secretly Want Me Dead (2000), incidentally an outstanding album, takes up four and a half minutes of running time, as does the uninspired “What a Wonderful Puddle.” All this may have had its intended effect — “arrestingly intimate, perfectly spacious, and gorgeously recorded,” gushes the press release — if the music were allowed room for contrast; that is, individualized as hidden tracks or B-sides to the usual KOLS tunes. Taken collectively, it’s like refined and purified boredom.

The opening sentence of the liner notes rhetorically questions the purpose of liner notes. It should go one step further and question the purpose of this album. Call it fear of commitment, perhaps; few of us are ready to be this intimate with Kind of Like Spitting yet.

Hush Records:

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