Album Review: Kagoule – Urth

Nottingham’s Kagoule are comfortably rising to prominence, set apart from a clutter of new bands that seem like recycled Nirvana groupies. If it isn’t Cai’s sore vocals and slick guitar that separates Kagoule from this recent trend of beige soft-rock bands, Lucy Hatter’s tranquil vocals and accompanying bass alongside Lawrence English’s no-nonsense skin smacking surely have propelled Kagoule apart from the crowd.

The album as a whole, for those veterans fearful of new music, has hints of Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Pixies in various dosages throughout – though with an originality appearing relentlessly in every track. The raw vocals of Cai Burns sounds like a perfect mix between the likes of Billy Cogan, Michael Stipe and Black Francis.

Urth is an exciting accomplishment for Kagoule, who have a great deal of work ahead of them to match this feat of an album.

Guided in with warm string work and vocals lapping as if upon a hazy shoreline, ‘Gush’ welcomes in the album as one of the shining tracks on Urth. Other favourite previous releases – ‘Adjust the Way’ and ‘It Knows It’ – stand at opposite ends of the LP, and it seems suitable that the two heaviest tracks on the record bookend the rest of the album. Lyrically each song instils different streams of thought, not vacant lyrics about what ‘he said’ or ‘she said’.

With welcomed first-time appearances from the sombre ‘Blue Sun’, flat ‘Open Mouth’ and feisty ‘Empty Mug’, the only disappoint came perhaps to personal taste and the final recording of ‘Made of Concrete’. A nonchalant addition to the album with laid back vocals, distorted guitar riffs and the reliable drum work, the choice of Lucy taking over the vocals came not as an unwelcomed surprise but as a slight anti-climax. From previous gigs and the YouTube live editions of this song, Cai’s detached voice lay tersely yet softly upon the resonating guitar and bass – something I feel Lucy’s voice does not quite match.

Nonetheless, the austerity of ‘Open Mouth’ shows yet again the talent of Kagoule. The straightforward strumming, occasional waterfall picking and unfussy drum beats – complemented with effortless harmonising between the voices of Cai and Lucy – creates an irresistible song, one that is easy to get caught up in a daydream with. ‘Blue Sun’ swims bravely against the strong current of this album’s distorted guitar heavy-style, to be a marvelling beauty. The naked guitar alongside struggling lyrics – “the blue sun shines, down on the tears, they dry, he now goes” – forms a pure, modest, crystal for the end of the album.

This LP is the mark of a group you have to pay attention to, and more urgently, have to see live.

Urth is an exciting accomplishment for Kagoule, who have a great deal of work ahead of them to match this feat of an album – even if a personal favourite, ‘Monarchy’, has not been included. That being said, there isn’t a track that could be scratched to give ‘Monarchy’ it’s rightful place – maybe just add it on? Either way, this LP is the mark of a group you have to pay attention to, and more urgently, have to see live, before the rest of Europe and the US get interested.

Hanna Corbett

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