As a title, The Handmade Tale of Lola King and the Kickstarts, suggests a lot of things in itself: because of the album title, when I first listened to Lola King and the Kickstarts, I was expecting something slightly twee and perhaps a little self-obsessed. From what I can tell, it is indeed both of those things, but it isn’t all bad.
This album is resolutely poppy – from the off, Lola King and the Kickstarts pack their songs with hooklines, clearly intending the “oh oh oh”s to get stuck in your head. The problem is that the melodies and lyrics are often so predictable that they’re actually not all that memorable. These are neat, wholesome pop songs that wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 1, but they’re probably not going to stay on Radio 1 playlists for more than a couple of weeks.
Though frequently inoffensive, Lola King’s lyrics are uplifting; every track is a celebration of self-confidence and individuality. In ‘Bounce Together‘, Lola King revels in her newfound singledom by asserting her self-sufficiency, generally quite an uplifting topic (see Beyoncé for more info). On the other hand, something about the tone of King’s lyrics is irritating – some of the comments on originality and selfhood can start to sound like narcissism when repeated, and the generic celebrations of uniqueness seem ironic when inserted into such made-to-measure pop songs.
My favourite moments on the album are the tracks which are never going to be singles – in songs like ‘Interlude in F Sharp’ and ‘Interlude in a Box’, Lola King and the Kickstarts move away from radio-friendly, chorus-verse-chorus structures and explore more sedate and experimental sounds, which they do well. Lola King’s voice is quite versatile, moving between quiet, London-accented singing and fierce near-rapping, both executed expressively and tunefully.
Nevertheless, Lola King’s voice can’t save The Handmade Tale of Lola King and the Kickstarts for me – for all the lyrics on originality, the album had little new to offer. It’s been put together beautifully, but that’s part of its failure – the production is so neat and safe that the most interesting bits of the album, like the angry guitars on the first few tracks, lose their charm. On the bright side, I can imagine Lola King and the Kickstarts being quite inspiring to younger audiences for their simple, uplifting lyrics and accessible tunes. Yet a bit less sugar and a bit more spice would have done no harm.