Kid Icarus – The Metal West

Kid Icarus
The Metal West

An indie-rock band named after a Nintendo game? Sweet.

So maybe I started off on the wrong foot with Kid Icarus, songwriter Eric Schlittler’s (mostly) one-man band – it already has a strike against it. Unfortunately, the first song did little to change my mind. “Beekeepers on the Edge of Town” is an unremarkable full-band romp built on a fuzzy guitar riff and desperate wails by Schlittler. Strike two.

“A Retail Hell” fares much better. This time around, Schlittler is accompanied only by his acoustic guitar and a flair for slightly more baritone Elliot Smith vocals. A gentle guitar riff comes in halfway through, adding a sunny touch to a melancholy song. Indeed, “A Retail Hell” would be quite good if it weren’t discolored by a blatant aping of Smith’s style, right down to the multi-tracked harmonizing vocals.

“My Anthracite Headache” adopts the melodramatic desperation of “Beekeepers.” Here Schlittler mistakes unremarkable acoustic strumming for an introspective mood, and clumsy electric bombast for crescendo. “The Murderess” is a decent, if not really great, stab at an anthem. The strums work well under the synths and the guitar riff, but rather than lifting the song to unexpected heights, Schlittler’s vocals waver uncertainly above the fray, failing to fully capitalize on perhaps the album’s best instrumental track.

The title track is Schlittler’s obligatory attempt at an experimental epic. At seven minutes long, it would certainly wear its welcome, if only it had ever established one. Five minutes in, when the wailing, dissonant guitar strums descend, one gets the feeling that they’re supposed to be contributing to the song’s mood. Unfortunately, they just distract from what little was going on in the first place.

In the end, Kid Icarus’ The Metal West is that most offensive of creatures: the kind that, while aspiring to great heights, achieves only middling mediocrity, without the audacity to be truly bad. The album is certainly not without its redeeming qualities, but like most of the songs themselves, they’re ultimately drowned out by Schlittler’s clumsy songwriting. It’s too bad, really, because it’s obvious at every turn that Schlittler has an unswerving love of his craft. Sadly, while conspicuous, this love does little to make his music compelling.