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Kafka – “Mysterious Skin” Review

“Mysterious Skin” is UK-based rocker Kafka’s latest album and its a double! Not just double CD but double whammy. Kafka manages to weave enough radio pop rock into some original themes and unique nuances to make everything sound fresh but familiar at the same time.

“Start Again” opens disc one with a spangley radio rock number which is catchy and showcases Kafka’s vocal flexing. “Maybe Later” walks down the bass lead path in a particularly catchy number that reminds me of some of the darker days of Depeche Mode when they made their more creative music, albeit more rockier. Just the right amount of ramshackle and anthem. “Susanna” reminds me of 90’s U2 but that’s because of the electric guitar riffs playing throughout. What is clear though is Kafka makes very catchy choruses as you’ll have these three choruses in your head quite quickly.

“Take the Knife” is a mid-tempo rock out that reminds me of some of the more chilled out Stone Temple Pilots tracks and sometimes Kafka’s vocals even sound the same. “Fall on Call” is the companion to “Maybe Later” musically but feels like the lighter version as it follows some of the same chords. It does introduce some female backing vocals that go beautifully with Kafka’s voice and sets up some of the more ethereal sections of “Run With the Buffalo (7th Wave)” which is a really uplifting track – the kind you want to freak out to with a giggle of laughter. “Jump Down” makes me laugh too because there’s a cute organ playing a cheesy riff in the background while the rest of the music pumps out what is a certified biker song surely. It’s got all the hallmarks of what a biker song should be!

“Different Folk” is the token slow builder before the album takes a turn into a warmer acoustic/keyboard base with “Is It Something I Can Help You With?” which is a beautiful track full of so many embellishments of guitars twists and picks over what is a simple chord structure. As the song evolves it changes tempo and mood from defeated to uprising and showcases some of the best work on the album. “Wrapped in Plastic” is a chirpy and simple track before disc one closes with “No One knows” which is an acoustic rock track complete with harmonica. As it’s the only fully acoustic track on the disc it stands out and Kafka’s vocals suit the mellower edge.

Disc Two opens back up with the more rampant “Naked in the Rain” where the signature whaling guitar resonance fills the speakers throughout the bridges and choruses. “Goodnight (RFAD)” which was the first video single is a great rock track with three songs worth of catchy riffs squashed into one track and is particularly fun. “Cold and Confused” feels like a real stadium anthem track with lots of layered chorus vocals and rising chord progressions. It really gets you bubbling up inside. “A Life of Crime” is another strong rock number before the tom drum happy “Fire Dance” track takes over. It’s insanely catchy and upbeat. “Friends Like Glue #7” has an interesting electronic feel with some mutated guitar sweeps and “Don’t Cry” should be on the radio as a main stay. It’s got a great hook and is the most conventional song on the album for the general public to test Kafka out.

“Prozac For Valium” is well produced while “Blind The Eye” follows the same two chord verse / four chord chorus loops that a lot of the songs have gone through and work so well. The songs feel much bigger than they really are because of all the little electric guitar flicks and twists bursting out the seams. “A New Deal For the Leper” is an absolutely stonking track ranging from slightly mystical right through to thrashing stadium rock which gets you really fired up and moshing away. The album closes with “Your Not the Only One” which is an acoustic guitar / string. It’s actually quite fast paced which makes a refreshing change for an acoustic track closer.

Kafka’s debut album as a double CD affair is a tall order. Sometimes the vocals are a bit rough around the edges but sometimes that makes things more emotive and pressing. The music itself fits nicely around the radio rock genre and while some of the songs are quite similar, there are more than enough standouts to warrant a damn good listen to a new talent of the UK.

Simon recommends: “Run With the Buffalo (7th Wave)”, “Is That Something I Can Help You With” and “Goodnight (RFAD)”

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