Kudzu Wish – En Route EP

Kudzu Wish
En Route EP

Kudzu Wish was one of those bands that sounded great on album but somehow found a totally different realm in a live setting. The band plays a style of melodic yet ferocious pop-influenced punk… or punk-influenced pop, it’s hard to say. The guitars are fast yet possessing a just-barely restrained pop structure, and the vocals can be sweet and catchy one moment, spat out with ferocious intensity the next. Somehow, even at the band’s most intense moments, the whole thing is catchy, making you want to bounce and sing along more than take out someone’s girlfriend in moshing mayhem.

And as great as the music is, live the band is even more intense. When singer Adam Thorn leaps from the stage, risking life and limb, and shouts out his lyrics right in the giddy face of a front-row fan, you can’t help but appreciate this act. And the instrumentation never suffers. It’s pretty impressive, and that makes it all the more disappointing that the band called it quits in 2005 after releasing En Route.

En Route sees post-hardcore producer extraordinaire J Robbins taking over production, and he brings out a decidedly more melodic direction than on the band’s preceding release, the stunning Reverse Hurricane. “Do the Woo,” for example, starts off so slick, so catchy, even bringing in some playful backing “da da da” vocals, before it rips into the aggressive vocals about a minute in while maintaining the song’s more poppy precision.

Don’t get too comfortable, though, and think this is watered-down emo-pop. On “I Am Rocket,” the guitar licks come fast and strong, the vocals more spat out than poppy, but the catchy chorus is undeniably the song’s strongest moment. I hear Boy Sets Fire in its more poppy moments on the catchy yet intense “A Sound Mind,” which has some decidedly hardcore backing vocals and shouts. All of this is prologue for the rapid-fire rhythm and guitar riffs of the title track, which is incredibly strong yet still decidedly bouncy and catchy. “Afraid of the Bomb” finishes things – far too early – as the album begins. It starts light and poppy, then rips into political blasting and strong riffs behind sung/shouted vocals and – of all things – hand claps. This band certainly likes to throw in a little of everything.

I was lucky to see Kudzu Wish play my town, and there wasn’t a fan in the crowd who wasn’t completely sold by the band’s too-short but plenty-sweaty set. I just longed to see shows in the band’s hometown, where everyone knew the lyrics and shouted along with as much joy and intensity as I. Robbins brought out the best in Kudzu Wish, no doubt. The band also offers a retrospective release featuring some new songs and other odds and ends through its MySpace page. I’m going to seek one out. It’s rare the best live bands sound this good on CD, so I highly suggest you seek one out as well.