While Kassidy’s debut album was not well received by critics – NME, somewhat hypocritically, called them a ‘bunch of Topman mannequins’ in a scathing review – the Glaswegian four-piece quickly built up a passionate fan base. The album, entitled Hope St, was mainly criticised for sounding like a hybrid of Mumford & Sons, Fleet Foxes and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Certainly the band’s 1970s-inspired folk rock and bearded appearance made such comparisons inevitable.
There has been somewhat of a backlash to folk rock music since its recent boom – if not shown by sales, then critically. And in many ways Kassidy were a victim of this ire. Yet, while their debut was slick, Hope St hardly broke boundaries. It was an album of simple melodies, constant bouncing beats and group harmonies – nice perhaps, but not enough to make you stand up and take notice. The band’s sophomore effort, One Man Army – released just a year after their debut – undoubtedly has a lot of convincing to do.
There is a noticeable attempt to impress early on, with short instrumental opening track Kallisti followed by the infectious and adrenaline-filled Get By. The song sounds rather like a Black Keys track that failed to make the grade, with its steady beat and mind-numbingly simple, but catchy chorus. The title track is another standout, with a jangly piano providing a repetitive melody and chugging guitars leading to another addictive chorus.
In fact, the rousing choruses are frequent and clearly something the quartet intended to do on their second LP. Take the effervescent Maybe I’ll Find, which is not particularly remarkable, but that won’t stop it being embedded in your head for days later. “Maybe I’ll find that I need you more than you’ll ever need me,” sings Barrie O’Neill, over the thumping beat and strummed guitar. It’s the short of thing that sounds rather tame on record, but would work effectively when performed in front of a dedicated raucous audience of Scots.
Kassidy know who their audience is and they pander to it. One Man Army is unlikely to gain them any new fans – it won’t win over NME if that’s what they were hoping – but the established fanbase will be in their element. Home is a perfect example of this. The song sees the band indulge in a four-part harmony that is virtually made for the live arena. “I am home, I am free,” the foursome sing, in a stirring chorus. If they’re lucky Alex Salmond may even use it as entrance music for his next campaign for Scottish independence.
Other songs are less successful, though. Flowers At The Edge Of The Rain ticks along in cruise control, while twee-folk song Driven By Fools is another decent effort that just sounds too safe. The album closes with 9-minute This Life Is An Ocean/Afterburn, which actually shows what the band could do if they were more adventurous. The first part is a fairly straightforward acoustic sing-a-long, but the second half is more interesting than almost anything else on the album.
It’s a frustrating experience listening to Kassidy. The four-piece clearly have talent – plus the knack for a lifting chorus now and a again – but they don’t take enough risks. The band’s sold-out Christmas show at the Barrowland Ballroom shows that they are well-loved and One Man Army will go down well when the band next tour. However, while the album is polished, Kassidy rarely take themselves out of their comfort zone. It’s a decent album, but much like its predecessor, it’s nothing to shout about. One thing’s for sure, Biffy Clyro won’t be looking over their shoulders anytime soon.