Kermes’ debut We Choose Pretty Names is as striking and crushed as the dried bodies of insects they are named after. Emotionally raw, as you would expect from a band who describe themselves as ‘queer indie-punk’, this album goes far beyond niche appeal.
Part of the tight-knit Leicester DIY scene, Kermes’ We Choose Pretty Names has a simplicity and clarity of production. There is a definite sense of urgency about the album, partly due to the sheer pace and abundance of three minute songs. Often the tracks are about searching for oneself and also about love. For that, they have a universality. ‘Time To Shut Him Up’ and ‘Ready For Love’ sit side by side in the second half of the album, hurtling from one to the other. There is desperation in each, ‘You’re on your own’ and ‘What if you’re not ready for love?’ The latter bleeds self-doubt, uncertainty and fear. Songwriting and expression become a way of controlling these emotions.
Easily the most visceral is the title track. ‘We Choose Pretty Names’. Musically this one is the most tortured and broken. The guitars are fragmented and tumultuous. It is tragic and melodramatic in equal parts. The only extended track, it will leave you comfortable and uncomfortable in your skin. Reminiscent of Modest Mouse in both its vocal style and chord changes, it manages to turn its frustration into controlled aggression.
The single ‘Casting The Creatures’ showcases the guitar melodies and catchiness that are Kermes’ real strength. Much of the energy is derived from the drums which drive the entire album. Yet there is a true balance here, a yin/yang, male/female quality that creates harmony. Hidden behind the furry monster masks are some fine, sensitive lyrics, ‘You weren’t the only one who had meaning to me.’
And just when you think the entire album is going to be a band thrashing about for forty minutes getting their money’s worth out of the recording time, they deliver ‘Boyfriend’. Perfectly positioned in the centre of the album, the guitar picks out single notes like crystal tears plinking on glass. Sad and contemplative, this track finally reveals all that has been hidden so far. It is more complex, more open.
We Choose Pretty Names closes with ‘Yr Beast’. It is fragile and unapologetic, ‘I won’t be sorry for the state of my body.’ Kermes know that it is the artist’s business to test and challenge assumptions. They create a literal voice for those who may not have acquired their own way to talk about their gender and sexuality.
Out of experience come possibilities. Out of fantasies come scary thoughts. Kermes lead from the front with a vermillion splash.
We Choose Pretty Names will be released on 13th April 2018 through Robot Needs Home.