Be Kind Unwind is dorky, melodic and often off-the-cuff, which should please fans of Philadelphia Grand Jury. However, other than some occasional moments of ironic-yet-earnest pop success, it feels somewhat underdone.
After Philadelphia Grand Jury split up in early 2011, main man Simon Berckelman (AKA Berkfinger) relocated to Berlin for a few years and remained silent. However, late last year he dropped Feelings’ lead single ‘One In A Million’ – a concise falsetto-led pop number bolstered by his Ariel Pink-like eccentricity and direct roomy production. The gimmicky second single ‘Intercourse’ has less redeeming features, sounding more 2D with each repeat of the misfired “I like you too and so hard / I feel every part in intercourse” refrain. His recent radio release, the familiarly catchy ‘New York Summer’, was slightly more promising but the simplistic melodies and lazy day self-deprecation don’t build to a truly penetrating conclusion.
All three songs appear on the Be Kind, Unwind LP and the record continues with similar inconsistency. Album opener, the aptly titled ‘Square’, is a dorky blues song that couples ‘Lady Madonna’-esque major scale riffs with ‘I’m an uncomfortable dude’ lyrics, but again the song lacks much to warrant showing your friends. A little later in the album comes ‘Loosen Up’, another boisterous anything-goes style rocker, however it leans a little too far into Spiderbait territory, rather than achieving the quirky charm of, say, Regurgitator or Custard.
The album’s best tracks are less obvious and more experimental. ‘Good Juju In My Medicine’ sounds like Berkfinger has placed an ’80s cassette tape filter over Eels, and allows him to show off his lower register. ‘Homework’ and ‘City Hall’ are also effective, mid-tempo numbers rooted in well-crafted melodies and lyrical ambiguity.
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
Be Kind, Unwind is out now through Create/Control Records