Sunday, September 02, 2007

Kiley Contagious

Rilo Kiley, Carling Academy 2, Birmingham, Friday August 31 2007.

On the first couple of listens to Rilo Kiley's fourth album 'Under The Backlight' it's astonishing just how much they've streamlined and mainstreamed their sound since 'More Adventurous' which itself was a record considered compromised by purist fans of their early efforts like 'Execution Of All Things'. The new album may be being snubbed by indie snobs, but to these ears it's a case of 'Less Adventurous, Maybe, But Certainly More Fun'. The guilty pleasure that keeps on giving, its addictive qualities not so curious given the fact that, notions of image and attitude aside, this is simply the best collection of songs released all year to date. Frankly, the oft-referenced Fleetwood Mac were only ever this good in their dreams.

Jenny Lewis & Co. certainly seem to be having a blast with it at the Birmingham gig, the sense of fun spreading through the crowd where people are too busy grinning with o'erflowin' good nature to care too much that there's limited material from their best-known record 'More Adventurous'. Your short-arsed scribe suffers from a somewhat restricted view during the first few songs, but as the lightweights and thirsty souls filter out, get a better view of Jenny and reflect how much more relaxed in her skin she seems compared to the previous performances we've seen (at 2005's Wireless Fest and her show last year with the Watson Twins at the Glee Club). With a voice as sweet and strong as the perfect cuppa tea, and the visual combination of a fresh face with an undeniable dirty glint in her eye she's unquestionably the killer app that will keep giving Rilo Kiley currency as long as they want/need it.

Once again, the sexual allusions and metaphors that litter the lyrics like club flyers on a late night's city streets have dominated the reviews but there's more to the band than Fleetwood Wack and compared to your average metal and rap acts the references to braless dancing girls and oral sex are pretty tame, and only stirring lather due to them coming out of Jenny's honeyed larynx. There's no doubt the band are having much fun relating their relaxed handle on sexual politics and lingo, but the fact they're still young and bemused enough to be impressed by their own cynicism in such matters is surely part of their charm. On record, '15' is perhaps the only track that jars awkwardly in the lyrical telling, but live Jenny belts the song out with such good-natured gusto it actually becomes one of the highlights of the show, finishing with Lewis playfully remonstrating with the crowd for being such 'dirty dogs'.

The rebellious streak continues with a set that busts the Academy's curfew by the best part of half-an-hour, and includes a version of 'Rise Up Amongst Fists' from the Jenny Lewis/Watson Twins project and a rare full band performance of new album closer 'Give A Little Love'. Sadly, and a little strangely given that it's a song that you'd imagine would really add flavour in a live rendition, there's no room for the tijuana-tinged pop funk of 'Dejalo' but then even the sweetest of confections needs to leave you wanting a little more. And as feelgood factors go, on tonight's showing Rilo Kiley are smiles ahead of the rest.

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