Returning to Alien I.D. | Bleader

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Returning to Alien I.D.

Posted By on 04.13.10 at 09:56 AM

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The first promo I ever got in the mail was a cassette of Kicking Giant's Alien I.D., sent to me by someone at K Records with an apparent soft spot for rural would-be zine makers. I included a short review of it in the single issue of my first attempt at a zine—a series of short reviews of things I liked, which I ran off on my dad's photocopier and distributed to a handful of friends who already knew the things I liked and the reasons I liked them. Obviously the whole enterprise was redundant, but in retrospect it was a meaningful moment vis-a-vis my career path.

It wasn't just nostalgia that prompted me to buy Alien I.D. from iTunes over the weekend. I kept it in heavy rotation for years after that review, and though I never tried to emulate it as closely as I did other records I obsessed over, it definitely had a huge, if subtle, effect on me as a musician. And ten bucks would be a completely fair price just for the album's epic closer, "She's Real (Version)," which begins as a melancholy minimalist tribute to Phil Spector-style pop, melts into a puddle of gorgeous noise, and finally resolves itself into a slanted cover of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby." (You might know the song via a woefully inferior cover version on the Built to Spill/Caustic Resin split.)

But even as a diehard fan I can't claim that the album's perfect. Drummer-vocalist Rachel Carns (who would find slightly more fame in the lesbian duo the Need) occasionally crosses the line separating primitivism from amateurism, and she and guitarist-vocalist Tae Won Yu sometimes let their ambition get a little out of control. Sprawling guitar drones and free-jazz-inspired collaborations with spoken-word artists delivering rants about scene politics are fascinating, but the best place for them probably isn't an album otherwise based on whip-crack hybrids of postpunk and garage rock.

That particular combination obviously wasn't real popular in 1994, considering the present-day obscurity of both Kicking Giant and Alien I.D., but a decade and a half later it seems almost eerily prescient. Trim the record down to its catchiest, most energetic songs ("Wire," "This Song," "Lucky," "Dubious"), give it to an unsuspecting music blogger under a Google-resistant fake band name, and you'd likely get it a Best New Music nod and favorable comparisons to acts like Jay Reatard and the Coathangers.

Here's some video evidence: Yu and Carns ripping "This Song" to shreds at the 1994 YoYo A-Go-Go festival. If they were a New York band right now, rather than a New York band from when most current New York bands were in elementary school, they'd be massive.

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