It may seem ridiculous now, but the original appeal of Slaves was their ability to take the frustration and ennui that typified a broken Britain and channel it in the sort of brusque manner that was immediately relatable to the average person in the street. The last few years may have quashed any further expectations given that they’ve effectively shown they can barely even pull that off anymore, but it’s not like that’s a bad template to act on in principle. Indeed, the current wave of post-punk spearheaded by Idles is essentially doing the same thing, albeit in a more intelligent, intelligible manner that sees looking inwards as just as crucial at building a full picture. And while it’s easy to lump Kid Kapichi in the same crowd given what they’ve offered before, they actually appear to fall more in the middle of those two extremes. Both 2019 and Glitterati have shown a somewhat similar degree of thoughtfulness, but carried out with an approach that mirrors the grotty, bashed-out garage-punk that initially proved to be a good foundation for Slaves, and if that’s where they’re looking to take their debut EP Sugar Tax, it could potentially make for a fresher take on a sound that, to be perfectly honest, is already feeling a bit stale.
It’s what makes Kid Kapichi feel like a leaner, often more enjoyable product than a lot of other new bands co-opting the hardened, blue-collar sound and aesthetic, and considering it’s pretty simple to pick up on who and what has been pieced together to form Sugar Tax’s core sound, that’s quite impressive. The most immediately recognisable is the joint lead vocals from Jack Wilson and Ben Beetham, both of whom have the sort of snotty, roughneck sneer that draws plenty of parallels to Slaves’ Isaac Holman, but they ultimately get a lot more mileage out of it thanks to having some more diverse instrumentation to work with. There’s definitely a standard set that gravitates around a brand of punk and garage-rock coated in grime and a sense of underlying urban dread, but the subtle horns towards the end of Revolver and the circus lilt that Death Dips devolves into shows a band willing to have a bit more fun with what they’ve got than so many of their stony-faced post-punk peers. Funnily enough though, even Kid Kapichi’s more standard material has so much more vigour and drive, courtesy of the sneering, unashamedly hook-driven Glitterati or the thunderous bass groove that propels 2019. It’s certainly too jagged to be described as outright poppy, but Kid Kapichi have a grasp on melody that opens up mainstream avenues without feeling overly compromised.
Rather, that comes more so in the writing, though again, it’s a far cry from the bland emptiness that would come to characterise the output of Slaves. Sugar Tax has its focus placed on broader social issues that, on their own, can feel a bit passé in the amount of times they’ve been done before (the biggest culprit probably being the experiences of modern, street-level violence on Revolver), but there’s a level of detail and sardonic humour that does feel generally appreciated, particularly when it goes into the rift that celebrity culture rends on Glitterati, or the fetishisation of lower classes by those in more privileged positions of 2019. Those two tracks feel like the moments where Kid Kapichi’s inspiration coalesces with the most power; there are definite inklings of it elsewhere, but the weaknesses in them – be it in the subject matter itself or how it’s presented – feel a bit more explicit.
But overall, Sugar Tax is the sort of debut EP that lays down increasingly promising foundations for what’s to come, especially in a scene that’s already becoming overcrowded at an alarming rate. It’s not like Kid Kapichi are doing anything all that new in the grand scheme of things, but with strong melodic instincts and a wider-than-average compositional breadth, they’re making moves into a corner of the post-punk boom that could actually get somewhere significant. Of course, it’s too early to say that definitively just yet, but even over just five tracks, they’ve made an impact, and that much can’t be denied going forward.
For fans of: Slaves, Fontaines D.C., Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sugar Tax’ by Kid Kapichi is out now.