New age: No other two-word combination strikes more dread in a rock fan’s heart. The sappy muzak the genre pumps out is anathema to the energy that defines rock ‘n’ roll. Yet the more instrumental-leaning end of modern rock, from Eno’s ambient work to Radiohead’s "Treefingers," can stray into territory scarily close to new age. Citay’s Little Kingdom, although much more based in guitars than on electronic effects, falls largely into the unholy hybrid field that can be called "cheezerock."
Citay is the project of Ezra Feinberg, formerly of Piano Magic, who got plenty of assistance from the Fucking Champs’ Tim Green. Almost everything written about the band stresses how Led Zeppelin is an obvious influence, but that comparison would really only hold if III was the only album Zep ever made. Indeed, pretty much every song on Little Kingdom sounds at first as if it’s going to be a cover of "That’s the Way." Acoustic guitars strum along at an easygoing pace, often with lines from their electric cousins squiggling over top. Little Kingdom consists of only eight tracks, but even at that short length, the album gets stale quickly. Ironic, then, that one of the record’s songs is titled "A Riot of Color"; Little Kingdom really just sticks to a few basic hues.
Most of the music here is instrumental. What lyrics there are aren’t memorable. Glowing opener "First Fantasy" has Feinberg lamenting how quickly the years roll by. On "Eye on the Dollar," Feinberg sings of needing a "home away from home" in very Robert Plant-like inflections. Album centerpiece "On the Wings" encapsulates everything wrong, and even occasionally right, with the album. It’s a sprawler, starting with a flourish right out of a network-TV jingle, then going into what sounds very much like the theme song to the reality show "Intervention." Toward the song’s end, another modulation puts it in territory not far from mid-career Modest Mouse. But that interesting section is quickly abandoned for more of Little Kingdom‘s dominant, torpid sound.