KENELIS – ‘FAKE’ – release date Monday 6th June 2011
Despite the ease of access to electronic downloads and playlists stored in ‘clouds’ I was like a small child with a new toy when my physical copy of ‘Fake’, the new album from Kenelis, dropped through my letterbox the other day. Having pre-ordered and received it with a personal message from singer Mel Sanson on the cover just added to the beauty of the moment.
I had been privileged enough to have heard all of of the tracks before but that didn’t detract from the joy of listening to it in its entirety, at a ‘Spinal Tap 11’, as I drove about the Scottish Borders.
It must be less than a year since I first stumbled across this amazing band – since getting to know their music I have come to appreciate a band that just ‘ticks all the right boxes’ for me. They are talented, versatile and edgy, and are clearly happy to plot their own course regardless of current trends.
Having met and communicated with Mel, I am absolutely certain that there is nothing fake about her. She comes across as such a wonderfully self-assured individual who is very at ease standing up for her decisions and beliefs. Some might feel a bit intimidated by her strength of character, but I am just so glad to see a genuinely compassionate and sensitive young lady who helps to confirm my belief that there are some really special and inspirational young people in the world, despite what the negativity addicted media continue to have us believe.
OK – so what about the music? To do it justice, I’ll take it one track at a time.
1/ There’s no gradual build up ‘We Could Die Any Minute’ explodes with couple of staccato drum beats immediately followed by strident guitars and insistent bass. “Come grab yourself a bargain, and buy the shit they’re selling” is the opening line, sung in Mel’s distinctive vocal tones. No ‘mid-atlantic’ formulaic accent here, this is real life, straight from the streets of 21st Century England. I may be proud to be a Scot, but I’m also a proud Brit and I just love real voices such as Mel’s. The song is a damning observation on a world dominated by the global arms trade, highlighting how the ordinary citizen is treated as a mere pawn by those who struggle to keep a hold on power and control. Despite the lyrical content I don’t really find it a particularly depressing song, it just makes me determined to make the most of every hour that I have the privilege to live.
2/ The second track is the band’s most recent single, ‘Jealous’. Again Mels’s lyrics are direct and to the point, no beating about the bush with esoteric imagery here – listening to this I can completely empathise with somebody who has been deeply hurt by the impact of jealousy on an insecure friend; in such situations it is not uncommon for people to really hurt those closest by irrational responses rather than seek to resolve situations, “all talk, big mouth, her insecurities”.
3/ ‘Liar’, takes another look at a fractured relationship – sometimes it helps to try to seek reconciliation, but when that isn’t possible, it’s much better to remain strong and realise that other people’s weaknesses are not our cross to bear, we can try our best but if this is rejected then the other party should expect nothing better than to find somebody else with similar nature – “we hope you find each other”, etc.
4/ I was lucky enough to see Kenelis play live earlier this year, one of the highlights of the set was ‘Paperskin’. First hearing live, it was just an excellent driving rock number. Given the chance to listen again, the lyrics yet again prove Mels’ lyrical genius; when one has sufficient inner strength and determination, it is possible to withstand persistent challenges I think it’s basically about staying true to what you believe, “would you pretend”.
5/ ‘Tricky’ is a softer more acoustic track, but the lyrics continue to explore the concept heralded by the album’s title. Interpersonal relationships can be difficult and complex, but at the very least we must be honest about our own feelings and beliefs, “I’ll let you win, but are you strong enough to take it?” Nothing is glossed over in this album, I find the the rawness of it is so refreshing after the generally bland content of a lot of other contemporary artists. No attempts to be artistically clever or politically hip, no misongyny, no platitudes, no risque references, no ‘holier than thou’ preaching. Everything that comes from Mel’s pen and mouth resonates with truth and reality. Life is hard, life is unfair, but with a positive determination it is possible to get by and be satisfied that you have succeeded without compromise.
6/ This track was given away ‘freely’ as a download last year, and in many ways it sums up Kenelis. It is melodic, it rocks, it hints at something very heavy; it highlights the musical diversity of the band – Andy Seabrook-Harris and James Chilton’s excellent guitar pairing, Andy Henry’s solid bass rhythms all driven along by Sam Franklin’s drumming and bound together by Mel’s vocals. On some other tracks, Oli King is master of the skins. As well as the musical talent, ‘Sick’ is yet another lyrically strong track – a howl of frustration against all those who have closed minds and cannot accept people who choose different life-styles – “I’m a loner in a world that’s full of sick”.
7/ ‘Wanted’ is another showcase for a mellower side of Kenelis, but throughout there’s always a hint of something much heavier. This is as close to a love song as you’re going to get on this album, but it’s certainly no saccharine-sweet fluffy little vacuous affair. The lyrics expose every feeling, this love is no half-baked emotion, “I couldn’t breathe cos you’re everything to me”.
8/ When listened to in order, the tracks will certainly take you on an emotional roller-coaster – but if you hang in, there is a glimmer of hope offered in the form of closing track ‘Deathstars’. No matter how hard things get, if you’re committed and stay honest, you’ll be supported, “I’m still here inside your head, I won’t leave”.
All told, I see ‘Fake’ as a brilliant piece of work (I am biased though). The musicianship is so tight and inspiring. It is a lyrical masterpiece, powerfully delivered by Mel’s vocals and accent. AND – in this digital age when fewer people are buying physical copies, the CD insert artwork (and disc graphics) remind me that there is much more to music than just the vibrations that come out of the speakers. This album may have been released in June 2011, but I feel it to be timeless, it doesn’t seem to echo any current trends, it’s quite simply 100% excellent rock music – I wouldn’t wish to even attempt to demean it by trying to be any more genre specific than that. KENELIS ROCKS! If you don’t have a copy to listen to yet, I strongly advise you to do something to rectify this situation.