Starter Kit – S/T

Starter Kit is a trio from Portland, Oregon that plays what can only be described as infectious and impeccably tight indie pop/rock songs. These mid-paced pop songs feature some precise melodic guitar, nice drumming, and strong bass along with Guitarist Jeff Pending’s nearly perfect pop vocals. So why doesn’t any of that sound very new or original? Because it’s not, really. Bands have been doing it for years. But few have done it so well.

It’s tough to get any more specific than to say that this band is playing some guitar-focused pop/rock songs, all very catchy and tight with just enough edge on the guitars to keep things from being sugary. They remind me of the sound a host of bands from about 1995 were aiming for, all looking at that sweet pop/rock sound. Well, Starter Kit have definitely found it. They may have found it a little too late, as the style still feels a little dated to me, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Isn’t a glory hole slang for something less than respectable? Anyway, “The Glory Hole” starts the album with some very clean guitar and a very poppy beat. “Failsafe” is one of the best songs here, mixing in the sweet pop sensibilities of an artist like Matthew Sweet with the more guitar throb of a band like Sugar, and that’s a damn good combination. A few songs are especially unique, like the fast-paced “Call Waiting,” which uses galloping drums and some thick bass lines to create a very cool-sounding pop song. There’s more of a modern rocking feel on “Chinese Finger Trap,” a slower song that nicely creates a thicker, more textured feel. And then “No I in Team” has some almost surf-rock guitar and a pace that reminds me of Nada Surf. And appropriately following up the more mellow instrumental “You May Already Be a Winner” is the rocker “Consolation Prize,” which has some great, crisp guitar and a renewed emphasis on the rock quotient. “Vicarious” is a good example of how a catchy chorus and tried-and-true rhythm go a long way, as it’s the one song I find myself singing after this album is over. And the band gets things a little more sonic on the closer, “Mouth to Feed,” with crunchier guitars and almost a Sebadoh-like style.

Something about this band reminds me of bands from the mid-90’s, but I’m trying hard not to hold that against them. Perhaps it’s a sound that’s coming back, this guitar-driven pop sound, or maybe I just haven’t heard enough of it lately. Really, Starter Kit are incredibly tight and precise, playing these songs very well and throwing in little doses of edgy rock sound to round out their feel. This is very nice, you’re bound to be impressed, but you might not remember the songs until you’ve played the album a few dozen times.