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  People Ruin Everything  
  The Kenmores  
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The Kenmores are a band from Baton Rouge, according to their press sticker. I donít know how long theyíve been around nor do I know exactly how many people they have. About all I know is that their latest album, People Ruin Everything is apparently the first release for Decel Records, which may very well just be the DIY label for The Kenmores themselves. This isnít judgment on my part -- itís just that neither the label nor the bandís website nor even the CD package give me much to go on in telling me where theyíre from or what they do.

Now me, when I first encounter a band, I like to know a little about them just so I can try to place them into some sort of musical context. Maybe this is a bad thing. I know there are people out there who think that all music should speak for itself. However, since I know music isnít made in a vacuum, I like to know what Iím getting myself into (so to speak) before I pop in a new CD.

Anyway, from the first song on People Ruin Everything, I can tell that The Kenmores are a band with numerous diverse influences. The first song begins with an angular pop punk sound that reminds me of Fugazi or Jets to Brazil. However, throughout the song, the band adds touches that are reminiscent of other bands. For instance, the singing harmonies harken back to early Weezer while the guitar solos recall Superchunk circa On the Mouth. This diversity is quite intriguing, although in the context of the song, the variety is a little disconcerting.

However, by the third or fourth song, you notice a certain sameness to the song structure. Almost every song begins with a slowish rock beat. After about a minute of this semi-indie rock sound, the band immediately speeds up and becomes louder and more punk in their execution. Sometimes the louder bits take the form of math rock-esque punk (such as on the third song feelings you are confident in); at other points, it comes dangerously close to thrash (such as on the fourth song, I saw weary eyes turn furious). Furthermore, each song contains a blistering high speed guitar solo like you might hear in a late 80s heavy metal band. And this in and of itself is somewhat disconcerting, mainly because in the genres that The Kenmores are firmly ensconcing themselves within, you donít normally see so much showcasing of guitar playing skill.

Furthermore, this album suffers from the same production problems you hear on many independently recorded releases: the vocals and guitars are way upfront, while the bass and drums are left in the background. In the case of The Kenmores, the apparent sameness of some of the songs may be due to this lack of balance; perhaps if I could hear the rhythm section better, I could hear nuances which would differentiate the music. For instance, my favorite song on the album, my team plays at noon, begins with a nice reverby instrumental section that lasts nearly two minutes. At that point, the drummer kicks in with a martial beat (which also works). Then, The Kenmores immediately begin with the punk rock, complete with barking/screaming backing vocals and overly loud guitars, and I can no longer really hear the drums. At the point, the song become just like the other ones theyíve played, with nothing special to distinguish it.

I guess in the end, The Kenmores canít really sustain their music throughout an album -- as I mentioned previously, all the songs have the same structure, from the slow beginnings to the punk middle to the ďhard rockĒ solo somewhere. Itís like listening to 3 or four bands in one: math rock instrumental group, indie rock verses, punk rock chorus, and grunge metal solos. Itís a mixture with a lot of potential, although I would suggest it has a slightly schizophrenic quality at times. Just when you start to relax and go ďThis is really niceĒ you get walloped upside the head by the guitars and screaming vocals. I suspect that some of this is intentional, and I also suspect that in a live venue, the band might very well have enough energy to carry it through the rough parts. However, as a recording, it really lacks the direction of a good engineer or producer to direct their sound and highlight the individuality of the songs.

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