Kate Boy, a Swedish/Aussie outfit, are the latest electropop artist to come from the Nordic lands with a substantial amount of hype behind them, enough to convince Fiction to sign them up. They’ve made their reputation on big, anthemic songs that are solid as a rock and impenetrable – the world’s first taster came a few years ago with Northern Lights and In Your Eyes. After a series of further singles and EPs, along comes One, their extremely long-awaited debut LP.
What’s immediately evident is the dismissal of any notion of subtlety and slow build within their music. The tempo is on Permanent Upbeat Mode. Midnight Sun is the opening cut and instantly deploys a hard, throbbing synth bass to ensure that you’re paying attention. From there, there’s simply no pause for breath; it honestly feels like all eleven tracks have been built in a way that they could plausibly be a radio single. The Way We Are struts along in a way that suggests that it simply belongs in the charts.
With all that in mind, calling One a dull album would be cruel and deeply unfair. What might be more fair is to say that underneath some of the bluster is not very much at all. The filler tracks point out fairly clearly that sometimes Kate Boy are at risk of focusing more on the tools than the hooks. Burn feels a bit aimless, going in one ear and leaving the other without really achieving anything. The verses of The Way We Are are filled to the brum with a thudding beat that overpowers everything else, which means that singer Kate Akhurst has to fight hard to make herself heard.
However, there’s no denying their ability to make electropop that’s so infectious that you can just buy into it within seconds. They inject heaps of mysterious atmosphere into Lion For Real, with violent stabs of keyboards and stampeding beats. When I Was Young is driven by a delightfully elastic bassline that loops with a little bit of a wobble. Higher is an excellent showcase for Kate Akhurst’s imposing vocals, though her performance across all 11 tracks is pretty staggering. It ends on a brilliantly anthemic note with the rousing Run As One.
The demanding nature of One – a persisting, unrelenting jolt of energy – gets tiring after a while, but there’s no doubt that the highs are incredibly high. All the elements are in place for them to be a massive deal – they can do hooks that are big enough to fill a dancefloor, they can provide ample doses of melodrama, and in Akhurst they have a brilliant singer. For them to deliver on their potential, they also need to have a lot more hits than misses.