If artists throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, it usually means they ran out of ideas and stopped listening to that little voice in their heads called reason. From the sound of their debut full-length, Death of the Party, Sylvia Gordon and Deantoni Parks don’t even have a little voice in their heads to ignore. Hopping from dirty house music to show tunes, the members of Kudu cram so many styles into fifty-plus minutes that even listeners with ADD will clamor for them to sit still. Gordon dominates the disc with her magnetic presence and powerful but graceful voice, and Parks challenges her with an obstacle course of genre-hopping.
What do you want from pop music? Sometimes, Kudu has no problem answering for you. You want a campy cabaret number where Gordon sizzles with the presence of Siouxsie Sioux? Meet “Physical World,” the album’s clear highlight. For six minutes, Gordon shines like a diva as Parks weaves a complex blend of style and substance. What about a P-Funk-inflected 1980s pop song? Welcome to “King Kong,” where Parks’s fondness for drums is on full display. Kudu gets better with every hyphen added to their style: The more ridiculous the combos are, the more successful the song is.
But Parks and Gordon get into trouble when they sound like they’re asking rather than telling. Nearly the entire album is catchy, but that’s not necessarily enough to call it a success. All the cowbell in the world can’t save “Hot Lava” from being little more than a tired hook kept afloat with pounding drums. “Playing House” takes three minutes of poorly veiled sex references and adds the creepiness of kiddie games, with almost nothing to latch onto musically.
When the music doesn’t click, you can always sit back and listen to Gordon’s sweet pipes belting out the melodies. Her lyrics are very pop, which is to say they’re heavily loaded with sex and are generally easy to ignore. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Gordon selects lyrics based primarily on sound; would anyone actually go out of their way to fit the line “He’s got a rhinestone rocket ship and disco balls” into their songs? I hope not. Some of Gordon’s best moments take place when she’s speeding through the vocals, such as the rapid-fire bursts on “King Kong,” where the vocals sound like falling notes on a keyboard.
Death of the Party distills just enough familiar influences not to scare people off and stretches out just enough to stay interesting. With their live show gaining steam at the same club Norah Jones and Brazilian Girls were discovered, Kudu will likely be on the radar sooner than later. And as long as Gordon and Parks keep telling us what we – and therefore, pop music – need, they ought to stay there.
Kudu’s Web site (includes streaming MP3s): http://www.kudu2u.com/
Nublu Records’ Web site: http://www.nublu.net/