Kindness is the rather saccharine alias of Adam Bainbridge, a London and Berlin based musician who dropped his debut LP, World, You Need a Change of Mind, last week. Doffing his cap to influences as diverse as Neil Young, Diana Ross, and Ariel Pink, Bainbridge’s kooky collision of pop, funk, and disco toes the line between charming revivalist pastiche and hackneyed nonsensical naffness, and on occasion its proximity to the latter mars enjoyment of an otherwise effervescent and experimental first album.
Album opener ‘SEOD’ is a deliciously sprawling slice of mid—80s synthpop which gradually acquires languorous, lounge-jazz overtones, before dissolving into the discordant squeal of saxophones. Similarly, the basslines on funk-rock numbers such as ‘Cyan’ and ‘Doigsong’, which evoke early—70s Sly & the Family Stone, are so infectious they should come with a health warning. The same should go for ‘Gee Up’, which possesses a riff that would surely grace any ‘Frisco dancefloor circa 1973, but which, clocking in at less than two minutes, never seems properly developed and therefore smacks frustratingly of mid—album filler. Exasperating, too, are the ill-advised cover of Anita Dobson’s ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’ (that’s the EastEnders theme tune to you and me) and the frequently banal lyricism on certain tracks such as ‘Bombastic’. Ultimately, here, the true winner is the quality of production, which coats each track, however inspired or insipid, with a glossy sheen and makes listening a pleasure.
Of course, it is exactly this standard of production which is almost impossible to recreate in a live performance. Wednesday night sees Cherwell dust off its flared jeans, back—comb its ‘fro, and head out to Shoreditch’s XOYO Club for Kindness’ swingin’ album launch party. Bainbridge emerges with a full band for his set, and makes use of a brace of female soul singers as he launches into the aforementioned ‘Cyan’. Thankfully, ‘Gee Up’ is given the extended airing its composition deserves, morphing into a five-minute jam. However, the lack of finesse in Kindness’ live sound sometimes reveals the foibles of the weaker tracks on World, You Need a Change of Mind.
It’s all good clean fun, though, and the band make up for the diminished quality of their songs with blithe exuberance, lots of questionable dance moves, and a fair bit of audience participation. Kindness appear to be the archetypal hit-and-miss band; for every soap-opera theme tune there is a Marvin-Gaye-style slab of afro-funk or a superb, sample—rich krautrock cover of Cerrone’s ‘Supernature’. Yet Bainbridge’s playful manipulation of musical styles and his willingness to take risks with his compositions if it brings greater reward are surely two qualities to be saluted in any aspiring musician.
Album: 3.5 STARS
Performance: 3 STARS