It’s been a pretty good year for Kid Kapichi so far, hasn’t it? They’re being elevated more by the rising rock tide than much of post-punk that’s holding faster in indie spheres or those completely their own, and that makes sense for a band who’ve do channel a more direct rock energy in their work. In 2022 especially though, they kicked it all off with New England, and the wheels have been more greased than ever. It’s the ultra-banger that makes sense to roll out Kid Kapichi’s most fruitful run yet, wearing its monster riff and hooks plainly on its sleeve, and topped off with a guest spot from Bob Vylan to commemorate their ingratiation among alternative music’s current heatseeking class.
It’s in the greater context of post-punk that New England sits even more impressively though, as an example of how a lean, compact track can be dished out that’s carrying the usual litres of spit and sardonic sneer, and satisfy from both angles. For all the post-punk that’s rushed out of the post-Idles sluice, it’s rare that an act will latch on so tightly to that particular creative philosophy; even compared to their debut This Time Next Year, Kid Kapichi’s current approach is far more direct and cognisant of its crossover potential. As such, it’s hardly surprising that Here’s What You Could Have Won is almost wholly built around that, nor that its direct rabble-rousing is what sees it fly the most. If Idles’ diminishing returns and Fontaines D.C.’s stepping out of formation could see them waver as post-punk’s mainstream flag-bearers, Kid Kapichi effectively embracing being a big rock band could make them an obvious choice to pick up the torch with little hassle.
That comes with the knowledge that This Is What You Could’ve Won is far more straight-laced in all regards. Kid Kapichi’s strikes are more sharp and direct, still acerbic and sardonic as you like but not going into the same depths as the aforementioned pair of acts. That does have a place though, as Kid Kapichi pound into the many factors eroding Britain’s ‘greatness’ with admirable precision. New England really is the thesis statement for that, as the rising racism and hypocrisy clashes with a public complacent to leave things as they are when they don’t feel directly affected, and keeps the cycle of austerity and classist inequality moving in perpetuity. It’s broad, but hits with purpose, as is the case with most of Kid Kapichi’s work here, when it’s all contributing to the central theme of a society not running at its greatest efficiency. There’s the admonishment of the Tories’ lockdown parties on Party At No. 10 and the mentally- and physically draining state of modern employment on 5 Days On (2 Days Off), both of which feel like necessary punches that the album has to throw, rather than building a truly unique narrative.
That’s always been perhaps the biggest issue with Kid Kapichi, where they can fall into a bit of a rut that feels difficult for them to break out of. Just take I.N.V.U, designed as a riposte to the culture of Andrew Tate-esque hucksters whose primary business model is to foster inadequacy among their ‘customers’, but falls extremely close in line to Glitterati which is already one of the band’s biggest songs. There’s a tailoring towards the mainstream space that Kid Kapichi are courting that’s difficult to miss, albeit not as severe as others who’ve been in their position. If you’re comparing them to, say, Slaves, it’s not hard to believe that, had they been responsible for the more out-and-out punk cuts on here like Rob The Supermarket or Smash The Gaff, that’d come with excising the survivalist subtext that Kid Kapichi do well to bring in.
In reality, they aren’t a million miles away from Slaves in terms of their place in the British rock landscape, but Kid Kapichi can hit the same targets with much greater finesse and, crucially, interest. When they do cast their net out a bit wider, it can be hit-or-miss—such is the case with the dud piano ballad Never Really Had You—but hearing a more cinematic scope to Tar Pit and Special, complete with strings and a floaty, gauzier production style, actually makes for some cool moments.
Though, to be perfectly honest, it’s always been the brusque wallops that represent the best of Kid Kapichi, and on Here’s What You Could Have Won, that’s no exception. Again, it’s New England that holds firm at the top, with the cutting riff and punching-holes-in-metal drumming finished with a nice coat of urban grime to properly hit the spot. Elsewhere, there’s the growling bass of I.N.V.U at the centre of a snarling dance-rock rager, and the serrated, free-running gnash of Cops & Robbers, both of which are very simplistic but never in a hindering way. At the absolute best, Kid Kapichi tap into a sharper focus that doesn’t need bells and whistles to do well, emphasised by production that pulls in once in a while for lockstep percussion or a heavier, erring-on-industrial tone, without shouldering the entire weight. Kid Kapichi are sharp and potent on their own, helmed by Jack Wilson’s regional sneer that’s about as synonymous of ‘classic British punk presentation’ as it comes.
The cues from those classic acts are ultimately what define Kid Kapichi at the moment, but they’re arranged in a way that deter most notions of copycatting. Throughout, Here’s What You Could Have Won indicates a band who are solid to a fault, with a vision they’re looking to stick to and mine a fair amount from. Their place among that new upper crust does feel deserved for that, even if they aren’t as transcendent in their ambition as some of their peers, but that isn’t really a fair metric to measure from. On their own merits, Kid Kapichi continue to plough forward with strong work and a personality that’s recognisable within it, to the extent where the upward punches an album like this makes are going to connect more often than they don’t.
For fans of: Slaves, Bob Vylan, Strange Bones
‘Here’s What You Could Have Won’ by Kid Kapichi is released on 23rd September on Spinefarm Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall