Hailing from the “rainy streets of Seattle, Washington comes the melodic street pop punk sweethearts known as Kids on Fire, and they are ready to bum you out.” Kids on Fire was started by Jonny Heartbreaker and Mikey Haha, both on guitar and vocals, picking up where Rain City Schwillers left off. Other members include Party Paul on bass and backing vocals, and Kevin “Animal” LaBarre on drums and backing vocals.They have been around for about 10 years and have played multiple US west coast shows. Bands they have shared the stage with include The Adicts, Stiff Little Fingers, T.S.O.L., The Horrorpops, Franks and Deans, Dead Bars, Lucky Eejits, My Life in Black and White, Slapshot, Noi!se, The Bell Rays, and Tartar Control.
According to the band’s bio,Songs in the Key of Bummer is a collection of tunes designed for commiserating over good times, bad relationships and questionable decision making – by injecting wit and self-deprecating humor into melancholic themes. Kids onFire create a space for positive catharsis by combining it into fun, fast, upbeat musical arrangements.The group has been compared to bands like Off With Their Heads, The Mezingers and Nerf Herder.
The lyrics to the opener “Next Stop Anxiety” will read quite familiar to listeners who can relate when life gets messed up. The speed in which this band plays is well, remarkable and you’ll hear that from the get-go. As a former bass player, the highlight for me was the sound of Party Paul’s bass. “One for the Road” progresses fast in true post-punk fashion, short and sweet with a clear message – throwing in the towel because your job sucks, so I’ll take to the road – but don’t forget the beer. I absolutely loved the beat to “Ramblings of a Dramatic Asshole” and it’s all too familiar message – “Night and day the same routine / distracts myself from internal screams / try to focus on the things that seem to be alright / Sometimes I’ll push away the negative thoughts and go about my day / but they return when I sleep and keep me up at night.”
“Follow Me” sounds like it has more a modern alternative format, like some of the styles from post-punk bands of the ‘90s. The drum and bass rhythm are fun in this one. The song’s lyrics suggest some sort of Murphy’s Law – follow me, but if you do, you’ll just mess up like me, too. LaBarre’s drumming on “Rain City Forever” is crazy good (thanks for using the ride cymbal!) and Jonny and Mikey’s guitars cut through good and deep. I really liked how the band changed the song’s tempo and structure. This was one my favorites, not only musically, but the lyrics reached a soft spot because of its nostalgic message.
“Cokes on Sunday” features guest singing by Lizzie Franks. What’s interesting about this number is that the lyrics repeat twice, which I don’t know, I thought it was a unique feature. Party Paul’s bass, once again, knocked me out. “First World Problems” features some of the band’s most cynical, but hilarious lyrics. So funny, so honest that they almost made me cry – “It’s over-rated, it’s so cliché, I never thought that I would be that a**hole / Who’s always whining, who’s always crying, into a shot of whiskey.” Truer words never said. “Cameron Frye” has the feel of an alternative post-punk song from the ‘90s, but in the beginning chords I felt there was something Ramones-ish about this one – minus any evidence of sniffing glue or being sedated in some way. “Delridge” is one of the few, if just this one, that starts way mellower than the rest on the album, although it does get heavier towards the end. If you’re not into the screaming punkish songs, this one’s a great ice breaker.
I frickin’ loved the lyrics to “Slop Buckets” – so positive, so universal. A fantastic tribute song to anyone whom you’ve loved and lost. Probably the band’s shortest song, too. The next song “That one brief moment where everything didn’t totally suck” reads like a title to a Morrissey song – although for that particular English crooner, well – most everything sucks. This one has more positive vibes – it’s about living in the moment where everything seems perfect, hence the song’s title. It’s about being present and remembering that life can be good – sometimes. I liked how the band changed their structure on this one and added a solo part, too.
Ok, count this last song as another funny one – “Shark Guns.” For those who grew up in the ‘80s, you’ll understand the lyrics with all their pop cultural references. So dead on, they gave me flashbacks. The best thing about this tune is that the band breaks the song up – meaning it ends will a lot of “F-this, F-you, I’m going to bar!” in the middle of the song. Of course, it all sounds like this was meant to be on the record and the band pulls it off well. The latter part features either Jonny or Mikey singing and playing the acoustic after crackin’ into a cold one.
Overall, Songs in the Key of Bummer was a fun album to listen to, filled with lyrics both funny and brutally honest, delivered by a band that holds true to punk rock roots.
– Divide and Conquer Music