Challenging, fascinating and highly entertaining. Kitten Pyramid confront the realities of animal consumption on their groundbreaking third album.
Release Date: 9th December 2022
Label: Flipflop Records
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download, Streaming
There’s not really any reliable way that you can prepare yourself for anything like this. Challenging, fascinating, often confusing but, ultimately, highly entertaining, KIDDO, the new album from Burton-Upon-Trent’s Kitten Pyramid is a full-scale assault on any preconceptions or sensitivities you may be harbouring. Driven by frontman Scott Milligan’s contemplations on the subject of meat-eating, KIDDO disguises its dark lyrical content in a wide range of musical dressings that are often – though not always – bright and upbeat. KIDDO is, truly, a groundbreaking album.
Milligan formed Kitten Pyramid back in 2010 in Burton Upon Trent (and I love the way that he’s incorporated his hometown’s most famous trademark into the band’s logo…) and, since then, he’s been the band’s single constant presence. A lifelong meat-eater, albeit one who has often seriously considered the vegetarian alternative, Milligan was struck by the arbitrary nature of our choice of animals that are considered to be ‘ok to eat.’ Cows – fine; cats – not so fine. And that’s how the band’s name came about – he saw a ’meat pyramid’ featured on a mixed grill menu and imagined the reaction if the meat in question was kitten meat. Kitten Pyramid.
KIDDO is part three in a trilogy of Kitten Pyramid albums and follows debut offering Uh Oh! (2015) and Koozy (2020) and it is, in many ways, the culmination of Milligan’s developing vision and songcraft. It’s not just an album, either – KIDDO is accompanied by a short film which emphasizes the points that Scott seeks to make with his music, and which is dedicated to The Vegetarian Society, in celebration of the society’s 175th birthday.
Scott describes how the inspiration for the album and film came about: “I drove past an abattoir truck just before Christmas 2021 and I imagined what it would be like if I were crammed in there with my family, confused, terrified and afraid for our lives. It cascaded into an idea for a short film and subject to underpin the songs I had been writing for album three. I’ve spent the last year researching the subject and interviewing experts from both sides of the debate for my YouTube channel and series, Veggie Nuggets. I wanted to be able to discuss the subject with a better understanding, because it’s still very controversial and I’m delighted that the Vegetarian Society have given me their full support.”
So, the lyrical message is clear – but what about the music? Well – it’s an eclectic (vegetarian…) stew of a whole range of influences. Scott himself has often cited The Beatles, Metallica, Joni Mitchell, Björk, Frank Zappa and Super Furry Animals as formative influences. Those influences are all readily identifiable this time around – and I’d also suggest that he’s had, at various times, The Kinks, The Bonzos, The Divine Comedy, The Small Faces and Syd Barrett in mind whilst he’s been composing and honing these songs, and he’s also been happy to incorporate strains of blues, punk, psych folk, classical and Eastern European music into his work. And if you’re capable of imagining what all of THAT lot sounds like when it’s mixed together, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect when you give KIDDO a spin!
The listener gets the message, right from the outset. Opening track, KIDDO, starts life as a confusing collage of distorted tape sounds, before coalescing as a poppy boogie with a close-up vocal. Scott’s meat-eating ruminations get an early airing on Road Hog, a gruesome contemplation of roadkill – the dead animals including foxes, badgers and pigeons that you’ll almost certainly spot on a car journey of any distance – and which of those that you may chose to scrape up for your Christmas dinner. I particularly enjoyed Scott’s speculation as to whether residents of African countries act in a similar manner in order to serve up elephant or hippopotamus steak at their family feasts.
The indie-sounding BBC reminded me of The Kinks at the height of their concept album obsession. The lyrics seem to sprawl just about everywhere, including references to periods of employment with our august national broadcaster as well as the prominence of university degrees, and there’s even a section that’s done to the tune of Sunshine of Your Love, with lyrics like “Burn it on up, you cheeky chihuahua!” There’s nothing predictable about THIS album…
Whale began its long gestation period as a potential track for the debut Uh Oh! Album, but never made it that far. The lyrics tell the story of a livestock farmer’s daughter who gets invited by aliens to escape an imploding world and Scott observes that the story provided him with further inspiration to develop the KIDDO concept. Bluesy slide guitar and what are probably the most frenetic handclaps you’ll ever hear provide the intro to a crazy session of English psychedelia, packed with cacophonous whoops and roars and topped off with some manic fiddling from guest Eli Bishop.
Jalapenos, the album’s second single begins life as a fast, furious punky workout, but soon morphs into a quasi-orchestral piece, complete with a full choir, before transforming again into a refreshing chunk of stadium rock. And those transformations are a particular feature of KIDDO – I often found myself settling on a description for a song before it altered out of all recognition – KIDDO certainly keeps you on your toes!
Likewise, the strummed acoustic guitar and intimate vocals that introduce the wonderful Biscuits are soon replaced by a ‘big’ production in a piano melody is enhanced by lush string effects and – I loved this bit – seagull noises. And the lyrics are worth a listen too – “Live to fight another day, skin your cat another way, hunt for birds in a bushy place – Biscuits!” is a typical extract…
And then things get really crazy. In fact, I’d love to hear the track Idiots played over a slideshow showing the faces of our current and recent government members. Somehow, the repeated phrase – expressed in different ways over a dramatic, anarchic soundtrack – “I’m a f*cking idiot, You’re a f*cking idiot, we’re all f*cking idiots, idiots, idiots,” would seem to be highly appropriate.
The album’s theme, and Scott’s recollections of that laden abattoir truck, are captured entirely in the harrowing Animals. A female voice (I’m assuming it’s band member Kate Brine…) recites a scary monologue describing a coach trip to what was expected to be a funfair, but which turns out to be an abattoir. Her descriptions of the screams as the coach’s passengers are loaded onto the conveyor, and the sight of the cadavers hanging on hooks beyond the slaughter machine are disconcertingly real, and the adventurous, abstract music – a stirring blend of freeform jazz, funk and a string quartet, fits perfectly with the horrors of the story. It’s one of the most thought-provoking pieces of music that I’ve heard all year.
The retro psych-pop of Everyone’s a Know All comes, then, as a respite of light relief. But, as I’ve mentioned, nothing on KIDDO is comfortable or predictable, and the song soon blossoms into a seriously weird guitar-heavy freakout. Scott considers the Zappaesque Gobble Gobble to be “An accurate showcase of what I wanted Kitten Pyramid to sound like” and, if that’s the case, then he’s onto a winner. It’s another of the album’s outstanding tracks, with random sounds from voice, synth and piano set against a persistent drumbeat, before the whole collage is smoothly and cleverly transformed into a heavy riff.
And there’s still time for one more engaging slice of transformative melody. Closing track Love Song develops from a delightfully pastoral psych-folk ballad, via the kind of tune that you’d expect to hear from a Marenghi fairground organ into an authentic Viennese waltz. It’s a wonderful signoff to a truly fascinating album.
The plaudits for Kitten Pyramid are raining in, thick and fast. The unpredictability and eclecticism of the music is beginning to be widely recognized and KIDDO will only cause yet more appreciative ears to prick up. If you have any taste whatsoever for quirky psychedelia that takes you to places that you never imagined existed, then check out Kitten Pyramid. KIDDO is an album that you’ll want to play over and over again.
Watch the official video to Road Hog – the first single from the album – here:
Kitten Pyramid online: Website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram/ YouTube
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