Ken Kase: Ken Kase (EP) [Album Review]

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Ken Kase
Ken Kase (EP)
Self-Released [2023]

This fast, fun power-pop 5-song EP from Ken Kase is a quick display of the kind of musical alchemy that the singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has been bringing to the St. Louis live music scene for 30 years. Kase has shown up in a variety of live music venues throughout his career and contributed to bands like Sun Sawed in ½, The Birthday People or his own Ken Kase Group. His most recent releases have been under the moniker Corpus Alienum, producing funky instrumental excursions with album titles like Mind Control Dance Party and Mantovani Boogie Man.

Power-pop can be an elusive genre to describe, but you know it when you hear it. Sometimes it’s easier to name artists who exemplify the sound, like personal favorites of mine: Material Issue, XTC, Fountains of Wayne, Jellyfish, The dB’s… this could go on for a while. Catchy melodies, punchy rhythms, clever lyrics, bright, focused guitar or keyboard solos, all play an important role, but if there was a simple recipe more people would do it successfully. The point here is that in these five songs, with Kase playing many of the instruments and singing lead, have tapped an especially fruitful vein to the motherlode of pure, unadulterated power-pop.

“Entitled” is a fine example of all these things, combined in a smart fun form, served especially well by the sound of a Hammond B3 organ which hints at the song’s R&B roots, but that fiery guitar solo at the end assures one that this is rock & roll, first and foremost. “Cambrian Explosion” relies on a catchy vocal melody with the feel of harmonies, over the sounds of organ and keyboard strings, with the crisp acoustic guitar rhythm at an insistent pace. “Philosophy Machine” harkens back to rock & roll’s origins with just the right twangy guitars, and of course a catchy melody. “Quality Control” continues the bright vocal melody path present on all these tracks, this time supported by 80’s sounding synthesizers for a change of pace. “The Big Whatever” closes out the short collection with a jazzy ballad that builds and expands with a brassy sax solo to push this soulful track into fresh territory following the bluesy guitar.

It’s barely a problem worth considering, when the strongest criticism you can raise about an EP like this, is that it ends too soon. Kase has said that some of these songs have been sitting in the can for a while, waiting for the right time to bring them into the public. But given that this genre as a whole defies the limitations of current trends, he should enlarge this to a full album if there’s more like this in his coffers.

“Entitled” / “Philosophy Machine” / “The Big Whatever”

XTC / Fountains of Wayne / Material Issue

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Brian Q. Newcomb

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1 thought on “Ken Kase: Ken Kase (EP) [Album Review]”

  1. Thanks for the fine review! I never set out to play power pop, but I’m glad that fans of that music enjoy my music. I do want to point out that I have never, ever played sappy covers at weddings wearing a tuxedo. I wore a suit and tie to play in a new wave/alternative band called Cosmic Cow, playing casinos, corporate gigs and special events. In it, we tried to create guitar-driven versions of classic songs of the era. It wasn’t my band, but started by someone else who very intentionally wanted to play 80s synth tunes as “power pop”. That’s my closest association with the genre.

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