Written by Paul Backus
“Antennas Up,” as heard on their new self-titled album, may be one of the most unique, talented, and fun bands to hail from the Kansas City area in a long time. And it’s about time.
It’s almost hard to believe now, but there was an era when Kansas had a killer local music scene. Think back to the nineties. Everyone should know who “The Get Up Kids” are, right? Anybody remember “Ultimate Fake Book?” And even though “The Urge” was from Saint Louis, Kansans loved the group as one of their own.
I hate to sound like a cranky old man, but times have changed since then. Much of the Midwest music scene is composed of uninspired rehashes of emo and hardcore bands whose styles could be considered new and exciting ten years ago, but are in the process of being phased out. Many talented musicians in the Kansas City area have been imitating their favorite scenester bands for far too long, without trying to bring anything different to the table.
Not so with “Antennas Up.” These guys have delivered a 33-minute album of a lively, guitar-driven modern funk that starts and finishes strong, albeit with a mid-point hiccup. The opening track, “Break Me Down,” starts out fast and (playfully) furious, and keeps the speed up through the first four or five tracks.
The pacing is great. The three-minute-something average for each track suits the songs well, and tunes like “Don’t Wait Up” are interspersed with little breakdowns that let listeners know that “Antennas Up” can play their instruments. These extended riffs never go on for too long, so casual listeners won’t get bored with extended musical sections.
But something happens over the course of middle tracks “I’m a Spaceship,” “5p4c35h1p,” and “On the Line.” Time goes by slower, and not for the better. None of the tracks are particularly sluggish on their own, but the phrase “I’m a Spaceship” is repeated over, and over, and over again on the first two of the above-mentioned songs. Then, the final phrase, and chord progression, of “5p4c35h1p” become part of the chorus for “On the Line.” This all creates a feeling of an overlong eight-minute track on an otherwise efficiently flowing album.
“Antennas Up” recovers nicely by the next track, and the group wisely finishes things out by noticeably changing things up on the last two tracks. The verses of “She’s Evil” are the only on the album to contain straightforward, punk drumming, with a chorus change-up. Then comes the closer, “PSA,” with some Middle Eastern/South Asian sounding riffs thrown in the mix.
All in all, “Antennas Up” proves a welcome addition to the Midwest musical landscape, and gives hope that the Kansas City music scene could once again aspire to greatness.