Kiwi Jr - Cooler Returns
Confusingly named Kiwi Jr are not antipodeans as you might suspect, but a four piece that hail from Toronto. Cooler Returns, their second album, was cobbled together through quarantine - despite the circumstances of its gestation, it’s exuberant, thrilling guitar indie pop - a mix of 60s beat pop and 90s indie slacker music (there’s a definite Pavement and Modern Lovers feel to them).
The tunes swing from jangly indie to power pop to spiky, punky riffs, but mixed up with barroom piano and gasping, off kilter harmonica. The lyrics are as sharp as the music - Undecided Voters seems timely given events in the States, but this is no Billy Bragg polemical rant - its obtuse and bizarre lyrics conjure up weird images of life in Canada - “Dead men from a desert grave cry out "Him there, that's Sparticus! But you're going to art school now, so what do you care anyhow?”.
Omaha continues the surreal imagery - "Tigers in the colliseum / Lions at the Comfort Inn / Rah-rah Omaha / Home of the husbands”. I’ve absolutely no idea what this means, but it’s fabulous. I secretly hope its chorus is a shout out to Line Of Duty - “Don't blow your plain clothes cover”. I suspect not, but I have sung along as they holler it over and over!
Tyler meanwhile alludes to some backstage tomfoolery and mischief: “I was falling apart in the green room, while you drank half the headliner’s rider.”, whilst simultaneously name checking Microsoft and threatened violence from bikers that never emerges. I suspect a night out with their singer would be quite something…
Norma Jean’s Jacket and Maid Marian’s Toast are my favourites - the former with its random account of a woman leaving town and the men who pursue her but she can never escape - “All of this heartache and sorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will be waiting for you with a bad tattoo of the past”. Meanwhile the latter sadly does not detail Mr & Mrs Robin Hood’s breakfast preferences, but does have some marvellous harmonica.
Thoroughly recommended, the album is 13 strange and wonderful indie-tastic crackers that speed along in just 36 minutes - you will be smiling broadly at the end, though very very confused lyric wise…