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Review: Kitten at the Bootleg Bar

September 18, 2012|By August Brown
  • Kitten live at the CMJ festival in New York.
Kitten live at the CMJ festival in New York. (Atlantic Records )

It must be quite a feeling to be 17 and realize your band is really, really good. That's probably what drove Chloe Chaidez to climb on top of the Bootleg's bar top and howl at the moon while her band Kitten tore off another round of shoegazy post-punk during its packed Monday night residency.

While most hyper-young artists are working at the bleeding edges of dance music, Kitten's rich and atmospheric rock is surprisingly ageless. The quintet's sound pulls from the punk-funk rhythms of Public Image LTD with Smiths-y yearning and the blissfully brutal distortion of Ride and Slowdive. As influences go, it'd be harder to be more tasteful,  but that's all aesthetic window dressing.

The real draw is Chaidez, as sure a shot to be a rock star as L.A. has produced recently. Onstage she's a dervish, flailing and writhing and bashing her bassist about the chest with a tambourine. Those antics belie her age, but her voice eclipses it -- a huge instrument that can veer from feral yelp to ethereal falsetto.

The band's catalog is slim but promising: Though Chaidez has precociously kicked around the eastside for a few years, the band's EP for Atlantic, "Cut It Out," is its first representational release. Songs such as the single "G#" and the EP's title track had an immaculate sense of ambiance and space, but always punctuated with clever production twists and played very, very loudly.

There's a wide audience sweet spot here -- fans of Robyn will dig the electro tinges and Chaidez's take-no-guff presence; M83 fans will fall over themselves at the narcotic sheets of guitar effects. Kitten has booked dates with Charli XCX and Paramore, and that seems like a fair approximation of what it's up to -- poppy, emotional and sonically ambitious all at once. It's quite a trick to have the vigor and intensity of youthful feeling, but deploy it with the craft of a '90s UK studiophile. If we could do it, we might just climb on bar tops as well. 


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