North London’s Fighting Kites’ dexterously layered heart-on-their-sleeve upbeat art-rock waltzes may rustle with ghostly flecks of post rock and jazz but really they defy convention winning them the attention of promoters like Upset The Rhythm and Gravid Hands. They found themselves on bills in London, Belgium and Los Angeles with the likes of Male Bonding, Nisennenmondai, Ruins and Benjamin Shaw. Their snappy 2011 EP on the Audio Antihero label earned them BBC airplay from Gideon Coe and a heap of praise, which brings us right up to date. Last week saw the release of their self titled debut album on Variant Records. We’ve been sent a Track-By-Track guide to the album from the band, which was bloody kind! Read about each of the ten tracks and listen to the entire album below!
1. Chuck Close
For a long time we opened with this song whenever we played. The first part feels like the beginning of something (and not just because it is), and then when you think you’ve got the measure of it, it abruptly cheers up and becomes something else. Keeps you on your toes. Luke claims it was the first Fighting Kites song he heard us play, before we persuaded him to join us. So it seems like the right place to start.
2. Grey Starling
A favourite among Kites members (or at least it’s one of mine). Melodies all over the place, often at the same time, plus some lovely noisy stuff from Neil tucked in for good measure. People burst into spontaneous dancing when we play it. Unbelievable.
I think this is first song we wrote after Luke joined. Named for the sound of his guitar part at the beginning. I think I am right in saying that the section at the end also marks the first recorded performance of Craig “Crackers” Wantrych, who is N15’s most underrated improvising trumpeter.
4. Apartment Hotel
When Neil goes on holiday, he likes to stay in apartment hotels. This is a tribute to his favourite one. Plus a horn section! (After a fashion.)
5. Bowling Alone
This is one of a couple on the album that have survived from when Fighting Kites was just me and Neil. There’s a version of it on our very first EP that we gave away at some of our first gigs. Oddly enough we never quite worked out how to play it with four people – you’d think it would be easier that way – so this is the only place you’ll ever hear it like this.
Dave’s bass at the end of this should sound like a helicopter taking off. If it doesn’t, there’s probably something wrong with your stereo.
7. Carlos Mends Shoulder
The circumstances which led to Neil’s sabbatical from Fighting Kites and subsequent musical therapy during convalescence, since published under the pseudonym “Broken Shoulder” on Audio Antihero and elsewhere, are well documented. But the details of his initial diagnosis and treatment by the good people at London’s University College Hospital are unfairly neglected by musical historians. In this song we aim to correct that.
8. Health & Efficiency
We played this at a fateful concert in Belgium which began a chain of events that led to the injury and temporary retirement referenced above. I have never been able to play it since. Which is a shame, because it’s quite a fun one once it gets going.
9. Mustard After Dinner
“Mustard after dinner” is the translation of a Polish proverb that means, I think, something along the lines of “shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted”. Which is exactly what happens here.
The first part of this one, once you get past Luke’s medieval banjo, is a close as Fighting Kites will ever get to sounding like a rock band. But it only lasts for a minute and half or so, after which you get four minutes of pastoral loveliness to make up for it. It’s my favourite bit of the record. And that’s a good place to end.