Kenickie: At the Club

At the Club
Warner Bros.

NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD Kenickie leader Lauren Laverne and her girlfriends Marie and Emmy-Kate have a message: They want you to want them back. "We are here for your entertainment... We are yours for your desecration!" they promise on "Nightlife," the first British single off their debut album. Kenickie want to be glamorous pop stars, and they make no bones about it. They're desperate for rock & roll to rescue them from their impoverished northern English town; and as Britain's latest overnight teen sensations, they seem to have succeeded.

Kenickie are informed by both punk passion and lipsticked Brit-pop grandeur. But they clearly have no patience for elitists (refer to their satirical screed "Punka"), and their sisterhood is rooted in rebellious girl-group tradition. The Kenickie they want you to know talk the jubilant call-and-response girltalk of "In Your Car," the U.S. single. Lauren flirts for a ride, while her mates goad her on--"Tell us exactly!" "How'd you leave 'im?" It's a nice punk-pop update on the Shangri-Las with a dash of "Summer Nights" (Grease, remember?--it's the movie that gave Kenickie its name), into which Lauren for some reason inserts the refrain, "I'm too young to feel so old." Yeah.

From there, the Cinderella illusion begins to unravel. Lauren knows that glamour is a facade, and on At the Club she can't prevent her real, fragile, and inexperienced self from coming through. With "Robot Song" Lauren experiments with insensitivity--"I'm so ugly/But I pick my feelings/So I choose not to mind"--but even she knows it's a charade. So Kenickie ultimately decide to make melancholia empowering: "I think that everyone looks better when they're sad," Lauren sings on "Brother John," her vulnerability and accent dovetailing perfectly. All the while she upholds her bad girl/good Catholic duality, scripting her personal creation myth in one song and leading her girls in a drunken "Alleluia!" in the next. In terms of style, At the Club is at once the saddest and most joyous (Brit) pop record of the summer. In terms of substance, it might just put Elastica out of work. (Simon Peter Groebner)

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