Reaching a New Fever Pitch
Veins of lyrical candor and layers of harmony run deep through the entirety of Rainbow Kitten Surprise’s musical collection, setting the band apart from its contemporaries as much as its unorthodox name does.
Their most recent album, “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” carries this tradition, charged with the same musical intimacy and distinctly Appalachian character of RKS and Seven + Mary.
The album begins with the haunting pull of “Pacific Love,” as the band’s unadulterated harmonies set a dramatic, sonic stage and carry the listener further into its depths. “Mission to Mars,” the next track, meets this dramatic introduction in signature RKS fashion: driving guitar and drums. Lyrically, the track unfolds like an autobiography depicting the band’s struggle to establish itself with trademark honesty and rhetorical mastery.
The third track, “Fever Pitch,” grounds listeners as the album’s first single. Lead singer, Sam Melo, shows his narrative prowess through the juxtaposition of a passion-filled “fever pitch” with the mundane “eggs and toast.” The song also features undertones of growing up and giving in to impulse.
Harmonies open the next track, “It’s called: Freefall,” creating immediate intrigue on a familiar religious landscape, as the band lays out the virtues and vices of everyday life with rhythmic mastery. With the vivid lyricism of lines like “Called to the Devil and the Devil said ‘Hey! Why you been calling this late? It’s like 2 A.M. and the bars all close at 10 in hell, that’s a rule I made,’” they intertwine the deeply personal with the universal until the two can no longer be told apart. The guitar solos solidify this track as an album favorite, showing off all that RKS does best.
“Holy War” follows, maintaining the intensity as the album’s second single by tackling social issues such as poverty and oppression. A passionate call-to-arms marked by emotional vocals and driving guitar, the track challenges listeners to defend their identities in spite of society’s attempts to silence them.
Upbeat drums carry through “Matchbox,” the sixth track off the album. In keeping with “Mission to Mars,” the song explores the complexity of the past, both in the difficulty of making the most of whatever circumstances one faces but also in the success of making it through one “Matchbox guitar session” at a time.
The next song, “Moody Orange,” uses muted instrumentals to draw attention to its verses, detailing the inner workings of a tumultuous relationship. With the quiet realism of lines like “Love ain’t enough a drug to make us… make amends,” it becomes saturated with the moody orange of its title, gripping until the end.
One of the most revealing tracks comes next. “Hide” offers a poignant look at sexuality and the way that many LBGT+ people feel as though they must hide within the arbitrary constraints set by society. It describes lead singer, Sam Melo’s, own personal and religious dilemma, as he finds himself torn from the “Son of Man” by the touch of the “sons of men” in typical RKS rhetorical mastery.
“When It Lands,” the next track, deviates from the intensity of “Hide,” focusing on some lighter subject matter and bringing rap and harmonies together throughout the course of the song.
By the next track, however, the intensity of the subject matter returns with “Painkillers,” which dives into the struggles of opiate addiction. The contrast between the soft melody, light harmonies, and dark verses comes together to create another album favorite, as inspiring as it is serious.
The eleventh track, “Recktify,” combines the fast-paced rapping of Sam Melo with a more melodic second half, all while examining the intersection between wrecking and rectifying. This is followed by “Possum Queen,” which carries the same, wistful tone and thematically continues the album’s narrative of dealing with and accepting the past. One must “love it for what it is,” but allow it to fade away.
The final track off of the album, “Polite Company,” floats atop soft piano chords in homage to their track, “Shameful Company” off of a previous album. In this way, the track becomes both a conclusion and an introduction. It further explores the concept of complex relationships, but rather than focusing on the past, it looks toward the future with somber inevitability.
Thus, “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall” is a nuanced, brilliant addition to the repertoire of RKS, striking a balance between the past and the future both in terms of content and of sound. With new elements such as rapping and instrumental experimentation incorporated into the telltale RKS sound, this album appeals to new and old fans alike, encouraging them to friend, love, and, of course, freefall.
Anastasia Sorochinsky is a Jazz DJ for WHRB.