Kristopher Roe 2011 / Kung Fu 2019
Subtitled “The Acoustic Sessions” and stripping punk riffs off fun favorites and previously unaired pieces, here’s a comprehensive overview of Kris Roe’s naked nerve.
It’s not only the difference between acoustic and electric takes on songs that defines an unplugged album’s success; it’s the songs’ ability to stand out on their own as a stark reflection of a familiar version or feel refreshed. Otherwise, what’s the point, especially if a track started with a strum like many of this collective’s cuts did? But whereas their second album, “Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits” from 1999, contained a vulnerable reading of “My Hotel Year” and there was an occasional tranquil moment in the following two decades, the squeal has always been the band’s attribute. Still, ten years ago something went wrong, and instead of a full-length record their fans received a couple EPs – hence the title for the set of tracks, now expanded for CD release, which Kristopher Roe laid down alone in 2011.
Interspersing popular tracks such as “In This Diary” with tunes that would see either the light of day later – “The Graveyard Of The Atlantic” might be the best number on offer – and those that still stay in the ensemble’s vaults, the artist taps into introspective depths of his soul yet, in the absence of heaviness, the results are so firmly ingrained within singer-songwriter idiom, they lack luster and clear melody. Nothing wrong about it, of course, except for even the hard-hitting “12.15.10” appealing only to the group’s existing fanbase rather then wider audience they deserve.
Roe doesn’t sweeten an aural pill on “The Hero Dies In This One” and “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” to banish pain which his vocals ooze, while “Skulls” has a funny streak to it, “Broken Promise Ring” seems possessed with certain poise, and “From A Tower” from the entire team proposes a solemn panorama of here and now. Sometimes hanging one’s head is the way to see things for what they really are and hope. This album proves as much.