Incredibly charismatic and lyrically witty
As far as debut albums go, it’d be difficult to find a band doing it better than Kiwi Jr. with their March 2019 release of Football Money. Incredibly charismatic and lyrically witty, the band expertly balances snappy melodies with up-tempo guitars, giving us a memorable feel-good indie rock album. Coming in at just under thirty minutes, Football Money is succinct, but begs listeners to return again and again.
Perhaps Football Money’s most impressive quality is not the music at all. With this debut, Kiwi Jr. has established they aren’t your everyday indie rock band. They’ve got personality and it oozes out of every track. The record’s charm definitely derives from the referential and clever lyricism. On the standout track “Salary Man,” singer Jeremy Gaudet reflects on the painful mundanity of day jobs with “I look back on all the times when I was rude or unkind to someone just trying to help me/ so often there’s no time to think/ I know my body/ I vomit into the sink and that’s okay.” Throughout the album, Kiwi Jr. is constantly saying something meaningful or profound like this and sandwiching it between laugh-out-loud jokes or puns.
Unlike other new artists from the genre, Football Money makes it clear that the band understands the power of specificity. Where it would be easy to use some general metaphor, Kiwi Jr. drops precise and deliberate references to make their point. Take “Nothing Changes,” for example. Over crisp guitar chords, the chorus leads into the verse with “Nothing really changes around here/ everything is out of my price range/ this boy knows I hate his Vans and everybody looks like a lumberjack/ it’s hard. More guitars! I have to be honest with myself.” With lyrics like these, the band grounds listeners and paints them an image while simultaneously being facetious and playful. Balancing sincerity with silliness is, without a doubt, Kiwi Jr.’s greatest gift.
Musically, the record feels like stepping into a basement show but the band’s playing ’80s indie-pop and dropping pop culture references the whole time. The sheer number of guitar tones and effects utilized on Football Money is impressive in and of itself, but the way these parts are organized in each song structure is something to be celebrated. The album easily transitions from the surf guitars and gang vocals of “Gimme More” to the piano-led relaxed melodies of “Comeback Baby” without startling the listener or pulling them out of the record.
Unafraid to play with distortion and unconventional mixes, Kiwi Jr. has brought the focus back to instrumentals in a refreshing and unique way. Instead of solely relying on strong quirky lyricism, the vocals are often not the forefront on Football Money tracks. Songs like “Soft Water Apple,” which almost functions as a sort of interlude, are mixed in such a way where the vocals actually blend in with the instrumentations. It’s impossible to ignore the guitar lines and crisp percussion work, especially when the focus is equally divided amongst the different parts.
Structurally, each track varies from the one before it. The faint but undiscernible spoken word section of “Salary Man” and fake-outs used in songs like “Nothing Changes” keep listeners engaged and interested. Although nearly every track includes an instrumental bridge, each one is unique and particularly strong in terms of technicality.
There is something so viscerally appealing about the overall sound of the album. It’s clean and precise, but not too clean. This is still college rock after all. From beginning to end, Football Money brings listeners on a journey, inviting us to join Kiwi Jr. on their coming-of-age story. Both nostalgic and hopeful, this album feels like moving back home after college. It’s about returning to a place you once belonged, but no longer fit into, and figuring out where to go next. On the other hand, it’s refreshingly funny, candid, and positive. An incredibly strong debut, Football Money proves that Kiwi Jr. are all of these things, all at once: confident, flippant, reflective, humorous, and hopefully, here to stay.