Despite our many and various attempts to hold on to the past and live in the seemingly eternal warmth of our finest moments we all know that life is best addressed with forward thought and motion. But in doing that, as the euphoria of youth fades and the years increase there comes in all of us a gap, a space, where the unresolved is acknowledged and we see our uncertainties far clearer than anything else. As Kids In Glass Houses return with their stunning third album ‘In Gold Blood’ they find themselves at exactly this point.
‘In Gold Blood’ is the crossroads that vocalist Aled Phillips, guitarists Joel Fisher and Iain Mahanty, bassist Andrew Sheehy and drummer Philip Jenkins stand at in 2011. The systems, rules and beliefs they were raised with colliding with the ideas, understanding and opinions formed by experience all coloured by the obstacles, challenges and complexities life has thrown at them along the way.
“It’s an album that discusses my own experience of life,” vocalist Phillips admits. “I started to question how I had arrived at this point in my life, looking at the good and bad, the relationships and everything else that defines me now. I wrote about it all but I did so in a different context, I created an exaggeration of modern society, a completely depraved world where everyone has resorted to carnal desires and instincts, and placed all my thoughts in that world.”
It is a universe without a name but one that permeates all eleven tracks on the album. The record is a story, of a man and a woman surrounded by chaos and madness that start a journey hoping to escape it all. They wander, they learn and they eventually find the reality and the answers they were looking for. At the end only the man remains, a scarred survivor, his companion no longer by his side and his future uncertain.
“The two main characters live in a world where people celebrate nothing but destroying each other and they can’t understand why,” he continues. “They are caught between different systems and beliefs at war with each other and the album is their attempt to find a way through that. There are plenty of negative sentiments but there is an optimism in the songs too, they might not make it through together but they do come out the other side.”
By the time the band finished recording with Jason Perry in Belgium and London the tsunami that savaged Japan, the uprisings in Egypt and Libya, Westboro Baptist Church, a relationship gone cold, family values, personal pressures, life in a band and a thousand things more had all been poured in to the songs, drenching each part and lyric with experience and meaning. “Trying to write songs about doomsday while you watch the world falling apart every night on the news definitely had an impact on this album,” the singer adds. “World affairs could have easily been scripted by Hollywood producers in recent months. I needed an album title that was cinematic and visual to go with the nature of the songs and the lyrical content. It was a title I had kicking around during the writing of ‘Dirt’, but I didn't want to use it until it felt right for something. I think it suits the whole ethos, flamboyance and drama of the album perfectly.”
Despite all the madness and despair there are shards and glimmers of hope hidden throughout the album. While life is now too complicated for Kids In Glass Houses to retreat to pure anthems of sparkling bombast and moments of elated intoxication there is still an underlying positivity, drive and momentum that moves ‘In Gold Blood’ and makes it vital. The choruses are bigger (‘Teenage Wonderland’, ‘Annie May’), the riffs are more aggressive (‘Animals’, ‘Gold Blood’) and the compositions more layered (‘Fire’) on a record that is not a departure but a realisation of the potential demonstrated in earlier work. The outlook might be more weathered and the optimism more tapered but the dynamics and raw energy that got Kids In Glass Houses to this point are better than ever.
“The feel we’ve got on this album is something we’ve been reaching for,” admits guitarist Iain Mahanty. “The songs are catchy with a hint of British swagger while taking cues from the American influences that have always meant a lot to us, it’s the best we’ve ever sounded.”
“Fans are often reluctant for bands to change and grow but that’s what we are all about,” adds guitarist Joel Fisher. “This album is how we want to sound now and we wanted this to be a statement record, we’ve made something bold and different and we’re amazingly proud of it.”
With two successful albums under their belt and a live reputation envied by many Kids In Glass Houses are one of British rock’s finest emerging talents. In a similar position others might have stepped away from writing a textured and tense rock record with concepts and characters layered on top of hopes and fears but as we are finding out, Kids In Glass Houses are not just another British rock band. Rather than dine out on the safety of previously attained success the quintet are leaning in to the future and daring to become something more.
“We’ve always felt like we had something different to offer, this is us making that known in the clearest way possible,” Mahanty continues. “I love knowing that we have written songs that capture the essence of everything we love about making music.”
‘In Gold Blood’ is not an album drunk on self-importance and abstracted in creative whimsy, nor is it so modest and inconsequential that it claims to be nothing more than a collection of songs that just happened to exist at a time when a new album would be helpful. Instead it sits somewhere between those two extremes, with a purpose and presence that rings loud and clear.
It is a record that is overwhelmingly inclusive and rewarding to those who already know and love Kids In Glass Houses, yet it also offers a hand to anyone who had previously written them off or passed them by. It is a collection of songs that are versatile enough to work in sequence while existing with equal standing on their own.
It is, in the simplest terms, brilliant.