American Midwesterners seem allergic, if not totally incapable, of being cocky and boastful. Residents of those vast, sprawling plains seem to either have an inferiority complex to the Old World/New World of the east and west coasts respectively, or else they're just reluctant to brag on themselves (which is actually kind of smart, considering you either have to live up to your own hype, or else disappoint your audience).
That being said, a lot of people might not realize that a number of those sprawling, dustbowl states are host to vibrant, healthy, forward-looking music scenes, both historically and presently.
Kansas City is no exception. It might just be a blip on the map, at this point, a mild ten-minute layover on a Greyhound line, but Kansas City (in Missouri, confusingly) was hugely influential in shaping the sound of the 20th Century, thanks to two of its most famous exports, Charlie Parker and Burt Bacharach, as well as some influential underground acts, like The Get Up Kids and the great, underappreciated Shiner.
Where musicians from the coast might put on a big show, spending all of their money on trendy clothes and huge pop spectacles, musicians from Kansas City have kind of a gunslinger vibe - quiet and ill-assuming, until the gullwing doors crash open like a challenge, and hot lead begins to fly.
Kansas City's Electrik Orange won't come right out and tell you how great they are. According to Electrik Orange, the only reason Trevor's Kid, their debut album, was recorded was as a document for their fans, as well as a kind of musical scrapbook, "so they can remember what it sounded like 20 years later."
Oh, if only everyone's motivations for making music were so pure! Ironically, Electrik Orange has more bragging rights than a lot of musicians, delivering six tracks of sharp, tight guitar-centric indie rock with a focus on regional flavors and events.
Electrik Orange is frequently compared to early indie pioneers like Pavement, which really just means you can expect to hear chiming, jangling guitars on the cleaner side of the spectrum with wry, somewhat slack vocals. It's the sound of riding around the suburbs for days, weeks, months on end by skateboard, bike and automobile in search of something to do. Oddly enough, just this act of searching makes places like this sometimes more interesting even than big city centers with their non-stop capitalist grind.
Instead, you're treated to charming tales of Native American conquest ("Amerigo Vespucci"), dinosaur deathpits ("Dyno Deathpit") and UFO sightings ("UFO"), over a bedrock of glowing, glistening, ringing guitars.
All in all, this is like Talking Heads' True Stories meeting Richard Linklater's Boyhood in the American flatlands. It's delivered with a wry, good-natured sense of pathos and humor. Albums like this give a sense of hope for good, interesting guitar-oriented rock n’ roll, proving you can still do interesting things with frets and strings and that great things can and do come out of the Midwest.
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