The Kickstand Band, a Detroit power-pop trio, is far from mysterious. Their Facebook page labels their genre as “FUN,” and on Summer Means Fun EP, “summer” is mentioned at least once in each song. What you expect is a collection of breezy, major key songs with warm harmonies, and that’s exactly what it delivers. Breezy can also describe the runtime of this release – five songs totaling 11:17, only one of which breaks the three minute mark. Their focus is admirable.
The title track kicks off the EP with a feel-good romp straight out of an Old Navy Summer Sale ad where every bar is an homage to early Beach Boys. Bass player/vocalist Allison Young handles the lead vocals while guitars, falsetto woo-ooh backing vocals and drums fill in the retro-Instagram-filter sound. Even when the songs lack depth or anything resembling a sonic surprise, the members of The Kickstand Band perform these songs well, and when playing live, have smiles and dance moves to match.
The next two tracks, “Sunburn” and a faithful cover of the classic 60’s pop standard “Sealed With A Kiss” continue in this vein, offering more catchy-yet-shallow hooks, sounding just different enough to differentiate one from the other. West Coast soulmates Best Coast come to mind, but where Best Coast succeeds by offering modern lyrics with their vintage surf- pop, Kickstand’s lyrics come from a period-correct rhyme-book, sounding insincere despite their best efforts.
The EP is buoyed by penultimate track “August.” Mid-tempo and sparse, interesting chord changes, and an excellent melody by Smith with Young’s delicate harmonies on the chorus make this the best song on the release by a mile. It’s also the longest song at 3:16, and it deserves the relative length versus the other songs. Interestingly it’s the catchiest song despite being a ballad, giving more meat & potatoes in its hooks than the opening tracks, which are cotton-candy-sweet by design but dissolve in the mind just as quickly.
“Promenade” closes the EP, and it really kicks in, offering a palate cleanser from the slow-burning “August,” with some welcome guitar fuzz, a fiery solo, and an unexpectedly abrupt ending. The lyrics go back to common summer platitudes (“Take pictures in the park / Stay out till it gets dark”), but the music itself sounds less like the genre-exercises of the opening tracks, which plays in its favor.
The Kickstand Band will drop their self-produced debut LP Puppy Love on Nov. 6, “a masterclass in melodic guitar pop and sticky hooks, filtered through (…) vinyl collections and frayed tweed amplifiers” according to the press release. If they adhere to the stronger identity of final tracks “August” and “Promenade,” a “masterclass” would be a stretch – to put it kindly. But, they could be on to something.