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Kryptonics - Rejectionville

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Artist: Kryptonics

Album: Rejectionville

Label: Memorandum

Review date: Apr. 1, 2010

Open the cover of this two-disc career round-up, and there’s a photo of an Australian muscle car. Four longhairs are sprawled on the hood (or bonnet, right?). Their heads are bowed, and the photo is too grainy and xeroxed to make out their faces. Over the black and white, in red type, is the inscription "1985-1992."

You can draw a lot of conclusions about the Kryptonics music from that photo. ‘80s Australia produced a spate of bands that were black, white and red affairs. No frills, but fun like sports cars. The Australian echoes of punk were naturally gruff, rather than foaming at the mouth. Over their seven-year lifespan, more than a dozen musicians and novices passed through Kryptonics. Exiting members moved into bands lighter, like the Bamboos, and heavier, like Lubricated Goat. The constant was guitarist and singer Ian Underwood. In his notes to this compilation of singles and live tapes, it’s clear that he was always absorbing the moods the others were bringing into the band; they weren’t just backers for his songwriting. But given the band’s ever shifting momentum, it didn’t leave a lot of time for pursuing a personal vision.

Underwood knew how to construct a catchy song. Most are built around monster movie jokes or trying to get baby (baby, baby). His voice is friendly, and sometimes lacks the snarl to sell the attitude. In the earliest iteration, all leather jackets and paisley shirts, and before he could play and sing at the same time, Underwood stuck to guitar. He had gangly goth dude, Micheal Reynolds, on the mic. On those demos, Reynolds can’t carry the tune as well as the Underwood versions that came later on, but he is better with the swamp-stomp spirit. Throughout Kryptonics’ career, it was the guitars that drove the band, even when the other parts were just as sharp.

By the turn of the decade, the band was enjoying Rick Rubin’s reinventions of the Cult and Danzig. They re-worked some of their garage-pop numbers to pack arena-rock crunch. As a band that had a live reputation and sparse recorded output, the change of sound didn’t go over with the fan base. Twenty years on, the distinction between what the Cramps and the Cult were doing in 1990 seems more a matter of leopard-print polyester versus zebra print. The Angus ‘n’ Malcom bluster of the tracks from this period have the right amount of tooth to raz up Underwood’s nice-guy presence. These singles have held up best, when the mix of big chords and shouts at the sky came into their own. But if no one in the crowd was buying it, the always shaky line up wasn’t going to shore up.

Kryptonics toured hard and made ties with overseas power poppers like Evan Dando. The various indies they were assoicated with fell apart just as frequently as the rhythm section, and studio time was precious enough that they never got more than six tracks on a release. Underwood seems like a good guy who had a good time being a bad boy. But Rejectionville leaves one with the sense that if he was an all-out preening bastard, they could have been more than also-rans.

By Ben Donnelly

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