So I live in Manchester. This means apparently that I should like all bands from Manchester. There is a fierce loyalty in this city for local bands. By all accounts, I Am Kloot should be massive. They have had a huge amount of critical acclaim but never managed to get the kind of commercial success recently achieved by Elbow. It seems as though you cannot talk about Kloot without talking about these facts. They are both helped and hindered by what we already know about them, and yet I find myself in the dark when I try to think of what they sound like. Before listening to the new album Sky At Night I would have been hard pressed to name a Kloot song, or be able to tell you anything about them. Yet they’ve been around for ten years, and are highly regarded. So what’s the problem? Why do so many people not know about the band? Is their new album really going to be their break-through?
The very first thing that goes through my mind when the album starts is how familiar it sounds. I feel like from the very beginning I could sing along. I try as well. Seeing as the only times I’ve listened to this album have been at work (I was concentrating though, honest) this is pretty embarrassing. Whoops. The familiarity comes from the fact that Kloot have been around so long, but also their close proximity to artists like Ryan Adams, Richard Hawley and Will Oldham, and their bluesy and often melancholy outlooks. I remember a quote from the brains behind the operation; John Bramwell that said his music is about drinking and despair, and this comes across very strongly in their newest offering.
The lyrics are infused with very image-laden narratives about love, life, and booze. In fact the album feels like it would be perfect at the end of a particularly heavy session, sat in a local pub recovering for the walk home. But you know, whereas the first time I heard this album I thought it was contrived and simplistic, the more I listen, the more I find that appeals to a particular part of me. My melancholy side appreciates the opportunity to wallow.
Each song on Sky At Night has elements I enjoy. There are parts where Bramwell’s voice drives me insane. There are more than a few times when I wish I could swap his tones for something deeper and more sultry like Kurt Wagner of Lambchop fame, or Tom Waits, or Nick Cave. But I fear in admitting this I’m losing the point. It’s very personal and talks of the struggle the band have had, and of something that feels particularly North-Western. It opens and closes fairly inconspicuously with plucked guitar chord, but tracks like Fingerprints swell in places to create a relentless infectious beat.
And the lyrics? Oh the lyrics. Sometimes contrived and irritating such as on The Moon Is a Blind Eye which is the only track that I struggle to enjoy, in other places the lyrics are sublimely descriptive and poetic. Lately, with its Beatles Get By With A Little Help From My Friends vocals (listen to it, it’s impossible not to see the similarity) has some really beautiful lines that are symptomatic of Bramwell’s seemingly effortless way with words “Lately it’s been a struggle to make up what is left of my mind” is a particular favourite. Proof is another excellent track, with the lyric “Could you stand another drink/I’m better when I don’t think” resonates with me in ways I wouldn’t possibly want to go into here!
What is also good about this album is the intelligent use of instrumentation. A delicate harp in I Still Do; pianos, saxophones and even double basses throughout the rest really prove that this is a band who knows what they are good at and how to enhance a simple song without over-burdening it. I am, however, also sensitive to the downfalls. At first listen it is tough to get through. The melancholy nature to almost all the songs can bring you down. I imagine, despite this being a good ‘post drinking session’ album that tracks like Same Shoes might send you over the edge. It is really slow and melancholy. You have to be in just the right mood.
So, in conclusion, is this the album that will finally get Kloot the recognition every critic agrees they deserve? You know, I’m not all that sure. I can definitely appreciate it, but my worry is how polarizing an album like this can be. Whilst I’m the kind of person who concentrates on the poetic lyrics and overarching themes, others could dismiss this album for being depressing. Like, throw yourself in a ditch depressing. Manchester inhabitants will love it though. They’re fiercely loyal don’t you know.
Words: ALEXIA SMITH
Listen: I AM KLOOT – Sky at Night