Review: Kasino – “Thank You and Goodnight”

Kasino’s Thank You and Goodnight — a five-song, 14-minute EP released by Keep Recordings in a highly limited run of 50 back in July — starts out perfectly fine.

There’s the light shuffle of guitars, the stripped-down skeleton of bass and drums, the trembly moan of an e-bow, the clean studio production, that familiar kick when things shift gears from verse to chorus.

While the lyrics on the album-opener are better suited to an album-closer (“I’ve said enough/Thank you and goodnight” doesn’t really ring as an invitation or a welcome), they’re delivered with some flair and emotion by a vocalist clearly working in the Jeff Buckley/Jimmy Gnecco school.

The song that follows the album-opening title track (“Walk Through Walls”) is a interesting but slight variation on its predecessor: glassy guitars low in the mix, the occasional stand-out lead guitar, the subtle bass patterns, the basic drum beats, the wailing vocals lighting and leading the way.

It’s all well and good but by the third and fourth and fifth song, you’re still waiting for something bigger to happen, for that little sonic surprise, for the display of talent you won’t find elsewhere, for the hook that you can’t shake out of your head.

When the record ends, you’re still waiting. There’s your verdict.

This isn’t to say Kasino’s latest micro-offering, released two years after Fearless, is a disappointment or a disaster.

It’s just that it feels like more of the same. “Kodachrome” has a somber but sugary façade to it — again: the glassy guitars, the e-bow, the subtle bass and drums, the emoted vocals — but it evaporates from between your ears before it’s even finished. “Miles Away” cranks up the delivery, to a degree, on the Buckley impersonation while not pumping up the vitality or volume of the music around it. Instead of sounding spirited, it feels overcooked, a singer (multi-tracked here) crooning over a mumbled backdrop. Strings (or keyboards meant to sound like strings?) enter only after too many measures without them.

When they do arrive, albeit somewhat effectively, their impact is lessened by that unfulfilled anticipation that precedes them.

“Sunshine” is more interesting, a pop song that kicks off with some digitally delayed guitars and plucky bass but, ultimately, it falls back into the order established through the songs that set the stage for it. That’s a bit of a let-down.

Bands that manipulate the structures and sentimentality of guitar-driven pop-rock (think Seam or even more commercial outfits like Ours here) have managed to do more with material like this. In Kasino’s hands, “Sunshine” feels less like The Problem With Me or Distorted Lullabies than the soundtrack to Dawson’s Creek or whatever formulaic teen flick is drawing crowds to your local multiplex.

This isn’t to say the latter is useless or devoid of merit and the former is brilliant and engaging to every set of ears that catches it. It’s just that the kernels and whispers of songs that Kasino is performing here feel either like they’re rough drafts or they don’t have the maps to find their way into your heart or your head. Between-album releases, tour-only discs and limited-run EPs can frequently be faulted for this. It doesn’t mean they have to be. – Delusions of Adequacy, Oct. 14, 2004

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