Some bands alienate their fan base while going on wild tangents or by trying to keep up with the latest musical trends. Kinlay is not one of those bands.
On their latest album, Black Dragon, the group reaches deeper into the vintage funk roots that already made them famous on the Greater Tokyo indie scene rather than grasping at what they think might be hot next. They take those roots and mix them up in order to sound fresh, without losing the plot.
The opener, “Do It,” takes the band’s well-honed, shake-your-booty style to a new level of fusion. Lead vocalist Andy MacKinlay, sounding like Dexter Holland of Offspring fame, leads the band through a Red Hot Chili Peppers-style romp, with a chorus of female backing vocalists plucked straight from the ’70s. “B-A-S-S” mixes a classic Middle Eastern theme with some Prince-esque rapping through a tropical-island accent. “Got an Appetite” slows things down while developing from the same flavor—a bit of reggae, a bit of dub.
The most notably modern-sounding track on the album is “Can’t You See,” which sounds almost like a recent RHCP; but by its chorus, with its anthem-like gang vocals, it’s already well-anchored in the ’80s.
“Better Time” starts off with a slightly more modern tone—a Chili Peppers meets No Doubt stylistic mashup—with Aimee Blackschleger singing the first vocals, sounding a lot like Lilly Allen. “Just Running” mixes New Wave with Funk, and sees MacKinlay sounding more original than on all previous tracks, with the occasional hints of influences ranging from Chuck D to Gary Numan and Billy Idol.
The closer, “Shine on Me,” slows things down to a bluesy shuffle in 6/8, reminiscent of Procol Harum, The Commitments, or The Honeydrippers, with MacKinlay’s voice often evoking a young Mick Jagger.
Nearly immaculate musicianship runs throughout this release, with bassist Yukako Ishii and drummer Hiroki Murakami indisputably being one of the tightest rhythm sections on the Greater Tokyo indie scene. The band even enlisted former Cirque du Soleil bassist Craig Harris for the opening track.Blackschleger and fellow local legend Sorcha Chisholm perform completely professional backing vocals, and keyboardist Seiji Fukuda wows with arrangement and performance on everything from piano to organ, horn to strings.
And, crowning it all, frontman MacKinlay never fails to deliver apropos vocals and guitar licks. All in all, fans will not be disappointed.
Kinlay is a hard-working band that always delivers what’s expected of them—and that’s what makes them such a successful, crowd-pulling attraction at this city’s favorite venues.