Myth In the Sky Review
One could spend an entire review just trying to explain the multitude of genres RWTK jam their fingers into with equal aplomb. Myth in the Sky, their fifth effort and first EP, finds Canada's most entertaining live act honing their song craft with another massive sonic left turn. Their electro-jazz-lounge tendencies have been dialled back in order to try on some new sound suits. Instrumental opener "Caledonia" builds off an outrageously syncopated drum pattern, with surf rock guitar and squelching synth farts flirting with a head-bang worthy metallic bridge. The rest of the EP navigates classic psychedelic folk rock, beautiful Eastern melodies, atmospheric piano, wistful guitar hooks and gritty Southern rock stomp. The humour and tasteful musical virtuosity that have rightly seen them compared to Frank Zappa, Ween and Beck are still intact, but mutated into a more mature beast, even if only because it's one of the few musical realms they haven't already conquered.
Myth In the Sky Review
There’s still some genre meandering over the EP’s five tracks, but the band’s mostly dialed back its ironic stylistic experiments in favour of tight songwriting. The new approach tones down their trademark humour but pulls back the curtains on their skilled musicianship.
On the instrumental Caledonia, a distorted surf riff swirls around a propulsive bass line and complex drumbeat, while Little Fawn sounds like a long-lost Black Sabbath acoustic interlude, layering slow psychedelic guitar over bongo rhythms. We never thought we’d use the “m” word in reference to RWTK, but this is their most mature release yet.
All shows are not created equal. This was made clear at Run with the Kittens' EP release party for Myth in the Sky. When the evening kicked off with a hilarious performance by Hamilton, ON's favourite crazed-trucker geek, B.A. Johnson, the early attendants knew they were in for something a little different, and a lot special.
Run With the Kittens took the stage with a video projection depicting front-man Nate Milk taking an acid facial then fictionally subsisting on old gum and toilet water in the bowels of the Great Hall. This performance piece was dubbed "Tool of the Opera" and the band commenced their set with a mash up of Tool's "Sober," "Phantom of the Opera" and Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." An energetic set of originals, old, new and current, followed, punctuated with stand-out tracks like "Year of the Hour," "Little Fawn" and the title track from Myth in the Sky. A new song entitled "People Like It Better When It's Planned" was among the night's major show-stoppers, demonstrating the Kittens' increasingly sharp hooks in a progressive folk pop framework.
Drawing influences from acts across the genre-spectrum, Run with the Kittens music is sporadically diverse but remains tightly contained, all the while capturing it’s live audience by the sheer enthusiasm and intensity the group share. No surprise they were awarded with “Best Live Electric Band” by the Toronto Independent Music Awards in 2006.
The Kittens have performed over 800 shows in their seven year career, which included a 5 year residency at Toronto’s independent music cornerstone, The Cameron House. They’ve also hauled across Canada twice in their, now defunct, black school bus, and even pounced as far across the pond to Holland in late 2008. They’ve graced the stages of Mariposa and Eaglewood Folk Festival, rocked the pants off of NorthByNorthEast and have even played at a mental institution – where we’re sure the Kittens felt right at home. As of late, they’ve managed to secure 3 more residencies - one at the University of Toronto’s Hart House Café, one at Kitchener's Boathouse and The Jimmy Jazz in Guelph.
Run With The Kittens have been toiling at their regular Tuesday night Cameron House residency for four years, far from the attention of even the indie music press. Their loyal fans have been in on a special secret that has eluded the supposedly sharp ears of us music journalists. But after their extravaganza at the Horseshoe, maybe Nate Mills, James Robertson, Nigel Hebblewhite and Jake Oelrichs will get the critical loveto.org/"; they deserve.
By the time Run With The Kittens took the stage, I was desperate for something to happen so I wouldn't feel like I wasted a Friday evening. And the Kittens delivered a balls-out theatrical performance that must have even amazed loyalists of their loungey Tuesday residency. The experience of playing every week for tips showed on the 'Shoe's larger stage as the band knew how to hold the crowd's attention with every aspect of their performance: attitude, body language, and, of course, superb playing skills. The outfits didn't hurt either — the band wore plastic gold jackets, white sweatpants and obnoxious red caps. Fans of Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! would have recognized the gleefully bad talent show aesthetic.
It was easy to see why RWTK often get compared to Ween. Both bands blend jokes and genuine musical talent in a way that makes them hard to categorize. It can be difficult to take a band seriously when they mash-up Tool's "Sober" with The Phantom Of The Opera. When they dug out their old classic, "Ricky Martin Shake Your Boobies In My Face" I thought, "This reference is dead, put it to rest." But then Mills broke into a James Brown/Jerry Falwell public address that lead into an acid lounge finish and my only thought was, "Wow."
The fact is Mills and the boys happen to share with Ween some of their greatest attributes: their sense of humour, impeccable musicianship and genre-drifting talent. But the Kittens' roulette wheel of heavy space country, hardcore freak lounge, dub parodies and ironic metal makes them wholly unique. It takes a special band tomake an audience mosh to a country song.
The crowd that couldn't be coaxed into shaking its collective booty by the earnest pleas of the opening bands danced in the most spastic, angular patterns for the Kittens' set. It turned out all they needed was a good reason.
Bangers & Mash Review
When a CD release party show starts out by having two masked people in red jumpsuits carrying a large chain join the band on stage, and then a female body-builder arrives, breaks the chain, and starts to shuck corn, you know it's not going to be your average t-shirt-and-jeans kind of set. But that makes sense for a band like Run With The Kittens, who appear to be a fair distance away from average. Frank Zappa once asked the question: Does humour belong in music? And Run With The Kittens answers with a definitive yes. But the fact that humour is incorporated into their music shouldn't overshadow the skill in both performance and musicianship that this band possesses.
Nate Mills (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, synth) entered the stage wearing faux-punk garb, including a carefully cut black shirt that was held back together with safety pins, and started out the set with M.L.B., a song off their new CD Bangers & Mash. His endlessly eccentric expressions were hilarious, especially as he vocalized some of the more lyrically funny songs. He also varied his vocals, covering hard rock, punk, as well as softer indie-rock styles. Even though the funnier moments stand out in my mind, the band played some extremely decent music, including a song called Year Of The Hour, which also sounds great on the CD. James Roberston (lead guitar) played some noticeably scorching guitar in front of the energetic drumming of big-haired Jake Oelrich. Lastly, mullet-laden Nigel Hebblewhite provided the bass lines needed to emphasize it all.
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