Kings of Convenience – Declaration of Dependence

Um. Okay. This is one of two reviews I wrote for an online magazine, which for some reason I never bothered investigating, never got published. Probably because my no-nonsense, all truth, all the time writing style was too close to the bone for them, maaan. What squares. So instead, I shall publish it here. Read on!

Around 5am on Comedy Central (née Paramount Comedy), they sometimes show “comedy” “shorts”. Most of these are as awful as you’d expect, usually amounting to nothing more than Gina Yashere miraculously managing to be less funny in a sketch than in her awful stand-up. One set of sketches, however, always manages to keep me amused: “Bridge Over Memory Lane with Simon & Garfunkel”. It’s not that it has any particularly funny lines, but it’s fantastic at conveying the passive-aggressive hatred that stews between Paul and Art. And passive-aggressive hatred is always funny – just ask my family!

I only mention this because every review you read of the Kings of Convenience’s new album, Declaration of Dependence, is going to compare it to Simon and Garfunkel in one way or another, and I want my way to be at least a little bit unique. So here it is: listening to Declaration of Dependence, I find myself imagining the Norwegian tunesmiths at each other’s throats between tracks. When they sing “You knew you find yourself vulnerable around me” on “Mrs Cold”, I picture them glaring into each other’s eyes, twin malicious grins showing teeth that gleam like the cold steel knives they drag through the ground in “Scars On Land”; I silently will each softly sung word to be a veiled threat. I want this band to have the passive-aggressive hatred, because I can’t find anything else to latch on to.

Oh, it’s pretty. The music is very, very, very pretty – have no doubt of that. It’s pretty in the way that Thomas Kinkade paintings are pretty: the kind of prettiness that will, somehow, eventually leave you pondering the slow, ugly death of mankind. The songs are quiet and unassuming pearls of clean, effective acoust-o-pop. It’s pleasant. But stiflingly pleasant, to the point of being bloody frustrating. “24-25”, the album opener, is like a wonderful palate cleanser, an aperitif before a beautiful meal. But then there are twelve more songs with nothing more substantial on offer to wade through.

Yet, at the same time, the music never dips below the level of absolutely listenable. I’ve heard bad music, I know what it sounds like, I know what it looks like, and I know what it makes me feel like – once, memorably, I even found out what it tasted like – and this isn’t bad music. It’s perfect music for at least three different kinds of waiting rooms, for example. I’m sure if you were looking for music to accompany a sun-strewn picnic somewhere within the concept of Boredom, this would fit the bill quite superbly.

Outside those very unusual parameters, it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than disposable, inoffensive music to fall asleep to. Imagine the kind of music The Proclaimers would make after a taking a load of Prozac, and also enunciation lessons.

Basically, I can’t help but wish they hated each other. It’d make things so much more interesting.

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