My hometown of Milton Keynes is hardly renowned for musical greatness. Rap metal group Hacktivist are the only people that spring to mind, off the back of their 2016 single ‘Buszy’, which raised awareness of the then-imminent closure of the titular youth club and skate plaza.
At least, that was the case until recently. Under the name KC Blackwater, Alfie Templeman’s MK-based based bassist Cameron Owden burst out with an explosion of angsty bedroom punk with debut EP Happy Smiling Faces. Written, recorded, and released in 30 days, it’s a magnificent expression of noise, excitingly fresh song writing, and the classic impulse to make “every kind of -ist” feel unwelcome.
Fortunately, my earlier promotional failures can now be rectified via the release of another EP, ‘Anxiety Machine’. Clocking in at 9 minutes and 15 seconds, it’s been the perfect double shot of espresso to kick off my Monday morning, as I hit play while walking into uni.
Droll lyricism is a major positive carry over between EPs. As the titular opener clearly references, we’re talking about the mental health effects of social media but approached in a less preachy way than many acts have managed. For example, my favourite line on the EP references the irrefutable fact that the internet was created to promote feline supremacy – “here’s a phone, here’s an app, here’s a picture of a cat”. It moves on to much harder hitting topics pretty quickly, but that initial dose of levity keeps things fun throughout.
Over twangy guitars and plenty of groove there’s an irresistible urge to move. Live, I can imagine as much dancing as moshing – and not just slam dancing.
‘Dregs’ and ‘I, Tithonus’ feel more towards the ‘make loads of noise’ approach of rock, bringing in more melodies and a rhythm that drives more than grooves. Definitely more in to mosh territory. ‘Dregs’ starts with the sound of cracking open a cold one with the boys, and carries that lads lads lads vibe onwards throughout. Chants of “Drink! Drink! Drink! ‘Till I drop” bridges the pop-punk feeling first couple of verses and interestingly dubbed middle 8, before leading into a 60s psychedelic solo. For a song that visits three or four different energies, it’s astonishingly cohesive.
‘I, Tithonus’ wraps things up with a similar energy to ‘Rists’ from the first EP, feeling like the most ‘contemporary alternative’ track to me. This stems from the slightly shoutier choruses, and a growly, bass-heavy middle section that brings the volume right down while asking “are they really all your friends if you don’t post about it?” Quite impressively, the song ends with a 30 second guitar solo, accounting for 22% of the songs run time, and manages to avoid the realm of the pretentious guitar-wanker while doing so.
At this point, what more is there to say than go and listen to this EP? If you like noisy guitars you’ll probably enjoy it, and if you like to boogie you’ll enjoy at least the first song. If you like neither of those things, I’m so sorry for you. As always, the best way to support artists it to buy rather than stream, and as such KC Blackwater can be found on Bandcamp HERE.
Cover photo by Tatiana W, who can be found HERE.