Kill Creek – The Will to Strike 2xCD

Kill Creek
The Will to Strike 2xCD

I will never need to hear another Kill Creek song again. Don’t take this as a comment on the quality of the band or my general feelings towards them. Rather, it’s a natural reaction to the gargantuan task of digesting this recently released retrospective The Will to Strike. This release has 45 songs. My god, 45 songs. Simply the fact that Kill Creek was able to assemble a compilation with this much girth is a testament to the band’s prolific songwriting ability. The fact that The Will to Strike feels relatively fresh throughout is a testament to the band’s ability to seamlessly weave strands of diverse genres into the Midwestern emo/indie-rock stylings. I’m not sure I would go so far as to call Kill Creek an inventive band, as it sounds too much like the many contemporaries – though given Kill Creek’s longevity, there’s room for debate as to who influenced whom. Like too many self-proclaimed indie-rock fans, I didn’t know a ton about Kill Creek before beginning my epic trek through The Will to Strike. This is no longer the case.

As would be expected on such a huge compilation, there’s significant filler. Kill Creek’s go-to style seems to be the style of emo dominated by early Get Up Kids and The Promise Ring. Not only are these two bands more well known than Kill Creek, they also are probably better at their style than Kill Creek. Where Kill Creek separates themselves from the idle emo masses is in its alt-country fusion material and its early 80s Hüsker Dü-influenced rock. “The Role Model,” takes Kill Creek into Wilco territory, and the band seems quiet comfortable there. That song represents the far extreme of Kill Creek’s country influence, while the memorable “Falsified” shows the band weaving it back into an emo comfort zone. Occasionally, these guys operate well within this comfort zone: they’re adept at knocking out soft, tense ballads, like “The Flood V.1” and “Mother‘s Friends.”

To the band’s credit, Kill Creek isn’t afraid to shut up and rock. “Gett On,” “Seven – Eleven,” and “Million,” take a refreshingly angular turn towards post-punk in the vein of Mission of Burma. Of course, within all these different styles lies the true core of Kill Creek’s existence: namely, the emotionally driven emo-rock that’s become the most recognizable sound of the Lawrence, KS music scene from which the band hails. It’s hard to overstate the obvious impact Kill Creek has had not only on Lawrence bands but on emo/indie-rock bands at large. Despite this, Kill Creek still mires in relative obscurity.

The Will to Strike, while providing a lot of examples of Kill Creek’s influence and skill, provides just as much explanation of why the band failed to gain nationwide acclaim. Over the course of 45 decent songs, there aren’t many songs that stand out as great. For all the scorn cast at one-hit wonders, it must be even more frustrating to be a no-hit wonder. After exploring the depths of Kill Creek’s catalogue, it becomes apparent just how close this band was to striking it big. Though these artists (somewhat deservedly) never received praise to match their influence, Kill Creek still had quite a bit to say during their long career, and The Will to Strike is more than just a good place to start; it’s a thorough and definitive sample of a worthwhile band.