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Posted May 11, 2009 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

The Careless Turns of Klum

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Urban legends and Hollywood productions certainly have a hand in molding the common perception of being in a band. Want a bowl of M&Ms in your room after the show, with all the brown ones removed? It’s on the way, sir. How about suggestively introducing some groupies to live seafood? Sounds fun. Between urban legends like these and the handful of pseudo-rockumentaries in the vein of Almost Famous, the romanticized concept of existing within a popular band has existed at least since the British invasion’s introductory use of rock ‘n’ roll stereotyping in the early ‘60s. Since that time, what these aspects of film often seem to overlook are the artistic obstacles involved in this creative process. They instead choose to focus on the overly grandiose lifestyles and unique personalities of the band members themselves, often showing artistic struggles as the result of drug addiction or non-commitment. After all, what is going to sell more: sex and drugs or watching an aging band attempt to write songs together? Commercialism tells us that it is the former, so it remains difficult to criticize these filmmakers for attempting to make the elements of existing within a popular band accessible and engaging. To deal with such expected fallacies though, looking at the reasons for the California-based Klum’s imminent success should enlighten many fans in regard to the inner-workings of a successful group more than any overly dramatized film or VH1 special.

When one looks back upon the most successful rock groups of the 20th century, it is distinctive that practically every group was based on collaborative quality. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd all had some members that attracted the spotlight more than other members, but their mutual infusion of collaborative quality was a distinction that allowed their music to live without any major constraints that ended their careers as a group too abruptly. Many of these groups included members that could pick up nearly any instrument and start strumming away to perfection, indicative of their musical talent but also of their willingness to make communication between members as clearly as possible. Instrumental differences are a common detriment to a cumulative songwriting process, as the greatest songwriters tend to exhibit audible mastery of every instrument included in their work. Being a multi-instrumentalist or at least having a respectable grasp of a broad array of instruments makes working with others significantly easier, as their ideas can be extracted easily and fused with others to create something genuinely worthwhile. The six members in Klum are all multi-instrumentalists and it allows their songwriting to serve as a display of an extraordinarily impressive cumulative effort, reinforced by a mutual dedication to melodic astuteness and successful pop experimentation that each member demonstrates in their own unique way.

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Klum’s second full-length album, We Carelessly Turned Amazingly Into Nothing, can show the band’s excellent chemistry just in the quality of the eleven songs alone, but experienced listeners will likely walk away more impressed by their ceaselessly unpredictable approach and tactful cohesiveness. Klum delivers the type of experimental pop music that hardly sounds experimental, an oddly exciting result that derives from infectious melodies, uplifting brass arrangements, and an unpredictable assortment of instrumentation and vocalists. As far as the classification of their genre goes, Klum and their efforts on We Carelessly Turned Amazingly Into Nothing are not restricted by any linear stylistic identity. “For Sale a New Life” plays like an amiable indie-pop charmer with its twinkling keys and ukulele accompaniment, while the fascinating “The Showmen” benefits from boisterous electric guitars, backing pub-like yelps, and concise brass arrangements. The former sounds like some spawn of Unicorns and The Leisure Society, while the latter finds distinctive comparisons to Elbow, British Sea Power, and art-rockers in the vein of Franz Ferdinand and Dogs. These comparisons alone suggest a vast difference in style on a track-by-track basis, which is true. But what must not go overlooked is Klum’s apparent ability to implement the stylistically diverse into a style that is honest, unique, and something that they can truly call their own.

While “For Sale a New Life” does a great job of showing off the band’s indie-pop leanings and “The Showmen” fulfills the task of successfully exposing Klum’s grittier, rock-oriented side, it is a few of the more interesting tracks on We Carelessly Turned Amazingly Into Nothing that really make it one of the most memorable debuts of the year thus far. The opening “Bashing for the Kids” plays with over-the-top guitar riffs and ardent vocal deliveries in a way that Black Kids would envy, indicative of Klum’s ability to bring out the expressively effective without appearing melodramatic. In fact, Klum seem free-spirited and fun most of the time, even during the somber chamber-pop balladry of “My Baby’s Just Stardust” and the twinkling build-up to the distorted angst of “Our Monster’s End.” Perhaps the biggest gem on the album though comes from “Nonbeliever”, an undeniably fist-pumping frenzy of a track that shows the group’s talents most prevalently. The various vocal melodies howl like wolves at the moon when the first verse is introduced, led astray over a catchy piano progression and a variety of samples that allow the song to be simultaneously haunting and infectious. The overlapping vocal harmonies of Brock Flores, Joe Fraley, and Aaron Arkenburg allow concurrent high-pitched and low-pitched vocals to supplement the brilliant intricacies of “Nonbeliever” as it flawlessly concludes the track. “Nonbeliever” should be all a listener needs to be convinced of Klum’s blatant ability, but the likes of “For Sale a New Life” and “The Showmen” also do a fine enough job. In fact, if I were forced to choose one track to represent this album, it would prove extraordinarily difficult. We Carelessly Turned Amazingly Into Nothing is too consistently memorable for such linear classifications.

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Klum – Nonbeliever

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Klum – For Sale a New Life

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Klum – The Showmen

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].