Credit: Hannah VanBeuren
Kicking Harold are modern rock alchemists, and the operative word is “modern”—they synthesize hard rock, alternative, metal and dance-pop elements, and generate radio gold. But this isn’t some hollow sleight of hand. New album Red Light District boasts12 expertly sequenced potential singles poised to erupt on multiple platforms. And every slugger in this murderers’ row boasts a home run hook, from the supercharged strut of leadoff track “American Nitro” (“I’m crazy / like De Niro, Scorsese”) to the passionate entreaty of the newly-resuscitated “Kill You” (“Would it kill you if I told you I loved you?”)
The first order of business is to do right by Kicking Harold’s loyal, patient fan base. “Kill You” originally appeared on the band’s 1996 MCA debut, Ugly & Festering. But due to spools of red tape that would strangle a lesser band, the fan favorite has long been out of print. Luckily, frontman Tim David Kelly conceived a novel solution: rerecording and modernizing “Kill You” as Red Light District’s centerpiece single.
“I wanted to retrack Kill You to give something back to the original fans who can’t get it anymore, and also use it as kind of a rebooting of the franchise for new fans, as they say,” Kelly laughs. “People still love this song and we still play it live, so it made sense to give it some new life and a really cool new video as well.”
Indeed, Kicking Harold are that rare breed of band who recognizes, respects and learns from their past. Fans of auto makeover reality show Overhaulin’ (originally on TLC, recently revamped on Velocity/Discovery) will recognize staccato rager “Gasoline” as the theme music. Kelly credits this placement for saving his band. After third album Space Age Breakdown, members had gone their separate ways and Kelly was prioritizing his production work (he has an impressive litany of TV and film credits). But Overhaulin’ unexpectedly made a sleeper hit out of Gasoline. Generating millions of YouTube views and awakening the hibernating Kicking Harold once again. Always striving to stay on top of preserving the band’s legacy, Kelly subsequently reissued Space Age Breakdown in 2006 with extra tracks, recorded and released the band’s 4th album Zombies, Cars & Evil Guitars in 2010, and re-release the ultra rare 2nd album”, Return Of The Bulbmen in early 2014.
Back to the future, Red Light District offers the perfect balance of classic and contemporary. Kelly loves the big riffs and dancier elements of new jacks like Young the Giant and Shiny Toy Guns, (see: “Drinkin’ to Forget You,” “Dance to the Radio”), but also the melodic thunder of ageless grunge heroes like Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots.
“I have always tried to make albums where you have pretty, acoustic things next to really heavy, riffy stuff, so there is a broader range of material,” Kelly says. “I like heavy music, but I am also very attached to melodies. I try to put the two together to get it as rocking as I can, while never losing the hooks, the pop part.”
That explains Red Light District’s lone cover: Kelly’s unique take on INXS’ sultry 1987 smash “Need You Tonight,” which explodes with auto-wah attitude “I felt like their songs were made to be done heavier—they always sound like heavy riffs to me, just done with clean guitar.” Kelly says, going on to underscore Kicking Harold’s winning philosophy: “I learned from a producer a long time ago that if you’re gonna do a cover, do a #1 song, because it’ll always be a #1 song.” Now that he’s all caught up tying his past to the present, Kelly can finally go about the business of delivering Kicking Harold’s own hits.
Joined by guitarist Bret Domrose and drummer Michael Odabashian, Kelly has once again pulled Kicking Harold’s Delorean out of the garage with the flux capacitor set to rock 2015 & beyond.
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