Kiwi Jr.: Cooler Returns (Sub Pop) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, March 4th, 2021  

Kiwi Jr.

Cooler Returns

Sub Pop

Jan 22, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Canadian indie rockers Kiwi Jr. scored a touchdown at the beginning of 2020 when they dropped their debut album, Football Money, finding fans at both ends of the Atlantic with their effortlessly cool attitude and melodic charming tracks drawing comparisons with Pavement and even The Strokes. The Sub Pop signees (always a clear indication of quality) are back with second album Cooler Returns, which addresses the lackluster lives of dejected youth of the West through a wry romantic sepia tinged lens.

Keeping the 13 songs short and snappy—with less than half the tracks even breaking the three-minute mark—the record certainly isn’t self-indulgent, maintaining a fast pace throughout. You’re always on to a winner when a song has the sort of easily repeated chant that drunk audiences can shout back, as heard on lead single and opening track, “Undecided Voters.” It’s a trick also used on “Highlights of 100” and the outro of “Only Here for a Haircut,” which you just know is going to go down so well at their gigs (whenever we get to enjoy them again!). The titular single combines high energy angular guitars with pop sensibilities and is a cracking little song—though falls short of ever really achieving classic status.

The midpoint of the sophomore album is a real juicy center, packed full of slacker anthems “Guilty Party,” “Omaha,” and “Domino” which, with drawled vocals and catchy off the cuff riffs, just ooze scruffy cool. 

There’s plenty of moments where you could easily be fooled into thinking this was the work of Stephen Malkmus, as Kiwi Jr. stick so assiduously to the blueprint created by him and the lo-fi bands of his ilk—just listen to “Only Here for a Haircut,” “Nashville Wedding,” and “Norma Jean’s Jacket” to find easy comparisons.

Kiwi Jr. recently appeared on the essential 22 Grand Pod podcast as one of the first contemporary guests who are currently in the ascendance, rather than reminiscing about the glory days for guitar bands during the mid-’00s to which the podcast is dedicated. Maybe it was bravado or playing up to the slacker attitude they have been attributed, but when speaking the band seemed to almost not care about the release of Cooler Returns, stating that they directly referenced their own debut when describing the desired sound and feel they wanted on their second album upon entering the studio.

Certainly, their second record is no great departure from their first and given just how well received it was by pundits and fans alike then you can see why the temptation to stay strictly on course was there. By referencing the past—both their own and the back catalogues of such great artists as Sebadoh, Yo La Tengo, and Guided By Voices—it has resulted in another mighty fine record. Just don’t expect anything original and it’s easy to enjoy. 

My worry is that in the long run they may become a one trick pony and if Kiwi Jr. continue to cling too close to Football Money, their appeal will begin to wilt and they will find themselves alone and dejected, like an now overweight jock in the basement clinging to their memories and a now tarnished high school trophy. (www.kiwijr.bandcamp.com/album/cooler-returns)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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