What do you want from a debut album? It’s often said that a first album, like a first novel, acts as a record of everything the author has done up to that point, the culmination of years of slow and steady evolution. Which is fine up to a point, but presumes the inclusion of styles and features a band has shaken off, left behind in the process. It’s already dated if it dwells too long on its gestation period, and Fanatical Love succeeds so well because Kutosis focus so sharply on the band they are now, and the band they might yet be.
It doesn’t hurt that the album positively roars off the blocks. Poised for the 60-second duration of the sleight-of-hand opening sound collage, they come out swinging with the killer one-two combination of ‘Salton Sea’ and recent single ‘Shadows’. The former briefly, blissfully, renders Exit_International wholly unnecessary, its shuddering, elastic bass and furious yelping reminiscent of early Mclusky. ‘Shadows’ is the clearest sign yet of their full-blooded pop skills, whipsmart Les Savy Fav art-punk that doesn’t waste a single second. Followed swiftly by the taut, efficient noise of its flipside ‘Skin’, another killer chorus sharpened to bleeding point by Rory Attwell’s crisp production job, the opening salvo serves as an expert repurposing of what we already know Kutosis do well; fat-free garage punk shorn of swagger and machismo and peppered with insistent hooks.
For all the thrills in the relentless first act, it’s the variations that reward most on repeat. ‘Battle Lake’ arrives on a monolithic bass-heavy groove, and the tempo shift and use of space and dynamics are utterly striking. Attwell’s hand is sensed on the tiller here; the metallic, see-sawing guitar stabs and falsetto bridge vocals recall another of his clients, recent Joy Collective guests Cold Pumas. Here, and on the closing ‘Breeders’, Kutosis are exactly the kind of muscular, effective noise-punks his old band Test-Icicles might have been if they didn’t act like such dicks.
Whatever you expected of them, a two-part dubbed out instrumental probably wasn’t it. The shoegazey guitar shimmer, bone-rattling bass and echo-heavy drums recall Ride, of all bands, circa ‘Leave Them All Behind’, no bad thing indeed and typical of a promising breadth of intent across the album’s last section. The results – the moody, brittle anthemicism of ‘Lights To Lead Us’ and the harsh sheet-metal guitars and clanging tension of ‘Miniatures’ – are icily foreboding, the lyrics darker in tone and speaking of emptiness and exhaustion. It’s carried by a production job that might have failed a lesser band but complements their ambition superbly; nothing feels tokenistic or a lead-booted attempt at gravitas. It’s still the simple things that make Fanatical Love work best, though; the beefed-up up low-end for maximum Death From Above danceability, the flawless sequencing and pacing, the indelible hooks. They’re not taking the straightest, simplest route, that of the one-dimensional punk band with a few fag packet social commentary lyrics. The simple things nailed, the next stage marked out; they’re far more than that.
Ian, Jim and Ben from Kutosis kindly put together a track-by-track commentary for the album for us. Synch your eyes with the CD, DVD or both and enjoy it in real time! Like a director’s commentary, except without all the dull bits where they talk about lenses and that.
We wanted to start the album with a short burst of strange sounds rather than a normal song. It’s like a gateway to the rest of the album. One minute of processed sounds played on the bass, along with cymbals, toms, white noise and feedback. The video for this song was made by Ellen Campesinos and features a brief cameo from Adam Chard, who’s designed the artwork for the album, playing a dead body.
2. Salton Sea
Salton Sea is a place in California that was a holiday destination for the rich and famous in the 1950s. It’s since become largely abandoned and desolate. A big thank you should go to Dan Barnett of Samoans who as well as transporting us to and from London for the album sessions provided some understated backing vocals to balance all the yelping in the chorus. Our friend Lt Meat made an excellent video for this song, pieced together from hundreds of long exposure photographs.
As soon as we wrote this song we realised it was going to be the single. It’s got lots of different sections but still adds up to three and a half minutes. Normally songs that sound like single material are written really quickly but we took a bit more time with this one, starting with the chorus and working ‘outwards’.
This is a song about finding your sense of place in an unfamiliar city. It’s got a spoken word part at the start of the song which is a combination of different phrases and sentences we took from a magazine and put together. We shot the video for this song with Tom Betts who runs the Movie Maker nights at Chapter Arts in Cardiff. He had us running around Cardiff dressed as spies which was enormous fun.
5. Battle Lake
It feels wrong picking a favourite song on your own album – it’s like a parent saying they have a favourite child – but this one really stands out for us. It starts off very structured with a lot of space between the instruments and ends up being satisfyingly messy and noisy.
6. House Sounds
House Sounds is a song about getting desensitised to things you once found exciting. ‘The party never ends!’ refrain is more jaded than joyous. The title is taken from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which we’re big fans of. The video was made by a San Francisco based collective called Dreams For Dead Cats. We’re extremely grateful to them as they volunteered to step in and make this video at very short notice.
This song is our personal homage to Devo. Channel 5 used it in their trailer for the new season of NCIS. It’s never a bad thing to have a song associated with a naval criminal drama.
8. Islands vs Oceans I
Islands vs Oceans is an instrumental we wrote which we broke into two parts for the album. It ushers in the darker final third of the album. The video was directed by Bafta award winner Matt Brown and a bunch of his very talented friends.
9. Lights To Lead Us
This was the biggest departure we took compared to the other songs we had written for the album. It’s our first five minute song, and we were aiming for a shift in mood from the start of the album. The video, directed by Jason Marsh, is very disturbing but in the best possible way.
We demo’d this song before we’d written most of the album. We didn’t think it quite fitted in with what we were doing at the time but some of our friends who heard it made us see it in a different light. We re-worked it a bit and now can’t imagine we ever considered not including it.
11. Islands vs Oceans II
Err, Islands vs Oceans round two! The bass gets dirty, the guitar goes weird and the drums get massive. If you play Lights To Lead Us and Miniatures really loud, you can actually hear Islands vs Oceans in the background. Try it!
Unlike Devo, Breeders isn’t intended as a homage to Kim Deal’s band of the same name. We became Twin Peaks obsessives around the time we wrote this song. It starts with some evil sounding keys and gets more disconcerting from there. Dave Roberts and Nic Britz of Dangerous Doug Films made a great video for this that really complements the music.