If you are familiar with Kaki King, first hearing the 5-song EP Mexican Teenagers (CD) is like grabbing an electric eel when you expected the smooth feel of a seashell. While King has progressively loosened her stylistic reins with each of her releases, this instrumental EP reveals a heretofore unseen area of her musical radar.
The distorted title track sounds like King emulating Built to Spill, with a charging, groovy rhythm broken up by meditative, lyrical bursts of guitar. For fans with expectations based on her previous work, it takes a minute before King’s unique melodic sense surfaces and confirms that this mysterious sound is actually her doing. It’s just that disorienting. Most hardly expect to “rock out” when putting on a Kaki King record, at least not in this manner.
“Gouge Both Your Eyes Out (But Eat Only One)” is looser, a short, sharp blast of thick guitar chords and dense, immediate trio work that reveals the decidedly casual atmosphere of the release. There’s a clear emphasis on fun and spontaneity, and “Lintoria” even has a bona fide rock intro full of crashing cymbals and foreboding instrumental drama – one of the guiltiest pleasures in pop music.
“Vivian Leigh’s Veins” hums with the kind of warped harmonic sensibility that has given King her touchstone sound. Here, her guitar blends in with and is nudged along by a vaguely surfy rhythm that continues the upbeat feel of the EP. The final track, the experimental “A Long Way to Go Before We Are Truly Danlike,” emanates a laptop-folk aura in which earthy, organic scratches loosely bind a folder of beeps, boops, and shimmering synth sounds.
I would like to think that King’s fans are excited by this striking new development. We all know of her singular talent, and it’s exciting to contemplate the possibilities created by her guitar playing and creative songwriting being ushered into an expansive, group-based format. Her next album – if this EP is any indication of what it might sound like – could be one of the best of it’s kind.