Dusted Reviews

Kid Dakota - So Pretty

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Kid Dakota

Album: So Pretty

Label: Chairkickers' Union Music

Review date: Jul. 14, 2003

Ugly Before Pretty

There ain't nothing pretty about So Pretty, to be frank. From its artwork (one panel of which is an eight-by-ten foot “blood angel”) to its disturbing lyrical content to the ruthlessly sharp tone of most every element therein, Kid Dakota's debut is a likely candidate for least convincing name since Joy Division. Fittingly released on Low's Chairkickers label and featuring bassist Zak Sally on a few tracks, it lurks in the unsettling footsteps of Trust, but picks up where Low leave off with a brutal punch, leaving few of its sordid details to the imagination. Say what you will about calculated shock or gratuitous imagery – while most of So Pretty is in fact unapologetically ugly, I cannot look away.

The record sounds at first like the deliberate simplicity of Built to Spill's Ancient Melodies of the Future (but with none of that band's trademark intricacies); “Crossin' Fingers” and the eventual dam-burst of “Smokestack” use the familiar buzzing guitar fearlessly, while Darren Jackson's voice slithers around troubling tales of listlessness, alienation, drugs, etc. Most songs take after the gritty-buildup-to-gritty-explosion pattern, although with varying levels of tension; some, like “Summer Cold” and the powerful 10-minute finale “The Overcoat” feature more Low-inspired languor than others. Still, under the cumulative weight of the program, not even the most innocuous-sounding song can be trusted; to wit, “Pairin' Off,” a late-album interlude of gentle acoustic harmony, lacks the lyrical and sonic venom of the other songs, but its placement among wolves like “Coalminer” and the diabolical title track makes it seem just as sinister as the others.

The music, of course, wouldn't be nearly as affecting were it not for the insistent snatches of lyrics throughout. Maybe you don't notice anything amiss until you hear “It's my friend with my belt between teeth,” or maybe it takes the nauseated stroboscopic effect of the “Hello hallucination / It's good to see you once again” verse in “Bathroom.” Jackson treats infidelity with the frankness of a Pedro the Lion record and heroin-colored dreams with the nonchalance of a Burroughs novel, adding each spiteful word to a seething and monochromatic mess of deadened emotion.

Nihilism in the face of self-destruction is what gives So Pretty most of its gravity; its musical makeup, though well-executed and appropriately gloomy, derives its strengths from the lyrical content. Jackson's unflinching candor is neither squeamish nor sympathetic, stopping short of graphic detail or self-pity. I, for one, am left instead in drained, but rapt attention at the depth and severity of the evils painted, watching his trains derail but unable to feel any more sorry about it than he seems to. “You're sure to die when you're young,” he snarls toward the end, “But now it's time to have fun.”

By Daniel Levin Becker

Read More

View all articles by Daniel Levin Becker

Find out more about Chairkickers' Union Music

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.