of traditional rock.
by Dan Grote
Let me just start by saying IT’S ABOUT
DAMN TIME THIS ALBUM CAME OUT. Ethiopian-cum-Virginia-based artist Kenna
started building buzz for himself when his first video, a claymation piece
called “hell bent,” bowed in late summer 2001. To his debit, at the time
he was being touted as another prodigy of Fred Durst, which is odd considering
his music sounds absolutely nothing like Staind, Cold, or Puddle of Mudd.
Two years later, Kenna has finally dropped his debut New Sacred Cow, produced
by the far-better-to-be-affiliated-with Chad Hugo of Neptunes fame.
And while this is a Neptunes-related joint,
don’t expect any guest appearances by cool kat Pharrell Williams or Jay-Z
guest raps in the bridge. In fact, don’t expect anything close to rap or
R&B, as Kenna’s album is probably thirteen of the best electro-pop
tunes the ‘80s could never come up with. It’s moody, dark without being
navel-gazing, and most importantly, it’s catchy as hell.
Take for example, “freetime,” the second
single, currently generating rotation on MTV2. If nothing else, it’s a
club track for rock kids, with the video, shot from the knees down, detailing
a punk kid’s misadventures at a rock show as he escapes his girlfriend.
Then there’s “vexed and glorious,” a song whose dreamy swirling keyboard
loops come off like Erasure for heterosexuals, while “i’m gone,” a track
that opens with a hyena’s laughter, only sounds upbeat but narrates the
story of a man “nervous and wasted” and confronting the idea that “everything
ends.” Then there’s the album’s loudest song, “red man,” wherein the keyboards
sound off like guitars as Kenna sings “Red man’s got you crazy sad,” to
which I reply, “What did hip-hop’s clown prince ever do to you?” (bad joke).
And while all of these songs will give
your car speakers a run for their money (there’s a good amount of bass
on all of them), none of them match the pounding melancholy of “hell bent,”
a ballad with a musically emotional bridge of crescendo-ing keyboards and
bass than snaps right back to the sadness of the original verses. Meanwhile,
“war in me” finds Kenna going orchestral, playing a straight piano and
VERDICT: Kenna isn’t exactly at the vanguard
of a new electropop trend; if anything, Junior Senior will probably beat
him to the punch with that damn “Move Your Feet” song, but there’s a slightly
more soulful and musically inventive method to Kenna’s magic that the Danish
duo aren’t going for. Kenna’s music runs more like Pink Floyd for the dancehall,
while his range allows him to write upbeat songs, downbeat songs, and songs
that just plain rock even without natural guitars.
- New Sacred Cow
Within Earshot / Freetime
Sunday After You
Vexed And Glorious
Better Control, A
Yeneh Ababa (Rose)
War In Me
New Sacred Cow
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