Once a near-popstar, jaded by his brush with "careerist music," Simple Kid is now a one-man act who writes and composes. He has developed a sound all his own, one that's been successful enough in England to have a shot with the American indie crowd.
Simple Kid -- a.k.a. Ciaran McFeely -- describes his artistic process as one of circumstance and inspiration. Simple Kid played with the Young Offenders in his high school years. Based in the Kid's native Ireland, the band was ready and raring to sign with a major U.K. label. That's about the time when Simple Kid quit and went on a six-month "sabbatical" in California. Although the Kerouacian trip was meant to be a break from music,
it became a time of artistic rebirth, a "personality transplant" for his music. The Kid developed a taste for country twang of Johnny Cash, Arlo Guthrie and the like. More significantly, he fell in love with the common-man music of the American heartland, where "there's no difference between the person in the audience and the person on the stage."
Combine that American spirit with the spontaneity of the East London music scene, and you have a Simple Kid performance. Here, trance and electronica are about strangers jamming together, about "people getting up and doing it" for its own sake, says Simple Kid. His shows in the U.K. have been deliberately random affairs. Concertgoers can sing along to his songs karaoke-style. Or they can bring their instruments onstage for a spur-of-the-moment jam.
Sadly, Simple Kid has decided to go a more traditional route on his U.S. tour, lest he scare away the crowds. He's even paying a visit to Conan O'Brien this coming Tuesday.
At the heels of the Kid's Stateside concert debut is the U.S. release of his album, 1, on the Vector label. It's an amalgam of country, blues and rock, welded together with techno beats and effects.
From "Hello" to "No News," there's a homogeneous sheen that contradicts the Kid's self-professed reliance on instinct. His lyrics are certainly more than random rhymes strung together, although the Kid is wary of the affected wit of Britpop. He turns clich‚d phrases in on themselves, coining names like Penelope Prozac and elegizing middle class manhood. The Kid dances around the ills of society without falling into lamentations or sermons. While he says he begins his work each day with extemporaneous lyrics and chords, the final project is too good to be completely random.
His music, on the other hand, has a little too much spit-shine. While the techno has more to do with the moment of composition than anything else -- drumsets aren't popular among your neighbors in London flats -- it sounds perfectly planned to the uninformed listener.
Simple Kid has deftly blended his influences, creating smooth melodies and harmonies. But they're a little too smooth. He needs something that musically matches his lyrics.
Simple Kid knows his musical terrain. Now it's time to get on the road and explore.
Simple Kid will be playing at the North Star Bar on Saturday, June 5 at 9pm. Tickets are $8 - $10.