With a name that immediately strikes curiosity and perhaps deserves a good-natured chuckle, Los Angelinos Kittens for Christianmay sound like some sort of teen dance band or a German-rock rip-off. But once the novelty of its moniker wears off, the three-piece band's no-frills, no-wave style on its major-label debut, Privilege of Your Company, combines the best elements of Cure mope and Birthday Party's dreamy swagger -- then adds a minor-key edge. Sound familiar? Yes, but KFC has been around long enough to know it was coming.
Led by bassist/vocalist Hiram Fleites and guitarist Neil Young (not that one, you oldster you), the Kittens have lumbered around in the void that is the LA music scene since 1991, when shoegazers were about to be elbowed out of the way by grunge. In 1996, KFC released a full-length and an EP on its own Dirtbox Records. But it wasn't until System of a Down mouthpiece Serj Tankian made signing the band his own political statement that the Kittens finally found a solid home on his Serjical Strike imprint. Though most of Privilegeis a scattered fitful spasm of synthetic beats and keyboard beeps, the band's strength is on stage. KFC cooks up a show in which it scraps the impersonal technology and opts for a stripped-down rock affair. Although Fleites and the band have little interest in reproducing their sound on-stage, don't expect the creepy space-drenched overtones of their records to disappear when they face a crowd.
It would be too effortless to stamp the word moody on the Kittens' music. But the public's current fixation on bands of that ilk makes it difficult to find a better generalization. Love and Rockets and the Church left their darker romantic elements for dead; KFC easily resurrected and rebirthed them as a swirling distorted half-brother. An invigoration rather than reinvention, KFC has all the dissonant attitude of its predecessors without the bad hair and makeup.