I first saw the band And the Kids when my group, the Sweet Clementines, shared a bill with them at the Red Barn, an unimaginatively named alcohol-free establishment on the campus of Hampshire College, that elite progressive school in the woods of Amherst, Massachusetts. The uniformly young audience attended our set in a way that you only dream a bar crowd would. One richly bearded fellow dubbed our style “Dad-Core” without malice, and we were done.
Then, during the changeover, I began to notice the thickening, the pressing forward and the gathering chatter that are the telltale signs that something is happening. And indeed, And the Kids are something that is happening. By the downbeat, these Amherst-area local heroes had assembled a close-pressed throng reaching to the back of the barn, ready to collect their pop ecstasies. At least half of the crowd seemed to know all the words, which usually means that a young band has made some decent recordings.
Two very decent proof-of-concept recordings, in fact: 2012’s six-song EP Nothing Came First as a five-piece, and 2013’s four-song Neighbors, reflecting the current streamlined lineup of guitarist/singer/songwriter Hannah Mohan, drummer/singer/songwriter Rebecca Lasaponaro and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Megan Miller. The band’s oblique self-description –“glitter Popsicle crisis” – really isn’t bad, as long as you take the “crisis” part seriously.
And the Kids aren’t interested in stylized, beachy or candied indie-pop music. While their tunes are quite frequently pretty, they sport a streak of alien weirdness and a lightly disturbed expressionism in words and in music. Lasaponaro’s skewed-but-preternaturally-solid grooves make peace between Radiohead and Gang of Four. Over the top of the upper-register twinkling and jangling of guitar, electric ukulele, keys and glockenspiel, Mohan commands the attention with the swooping, piercing drama of her vocal performances and a live intensity that borders on possessed or messianic.
Modern indie seems to offer two viable roads for lyricists: earnest emotive populism because, you know, sh*t is real; or the kind of slippery, clever postmodern thought-and-meme pastiche that, to ears as old as mine, always seems to trace back to the poetry of John Ashbery (and his indie-rock apologist, Stephen Malkmus of Pavement). Mohan seems to split the difference. There is an offhand, free-associative feel to her offbeat perceptions and language play. But there is also an undeniably focused emotional purpose when, as in the song “Geology,” she delivers her sometimes-inscrutable proclamations…
Colorado is unsettling and I really prefer not to talk about it
But you do what like ‘cause you’re a free bird, you bird, you
…to a roomful of college kids signing along.