Available on: Female Energy / Polydor LP
Adam Bainbridge, a.k.a. Kindness, has been chosen by iTunes as one of their artists of 2012 and the making of World, You Need a Change of Mind has a back-story that stretches all the way back to 2007 through Berlin, Philadelphia, Ibiza and finally to the Motorbass studio in Paris where the album was co-produced with smooth French house producer, Cassius’s Phillipe Zdar. Citing everyone from Grace Jones and Tom Tom Club to Ariel Pink, Kindness on paper comes across like an attempt to pick up Hercules and Love Affair’s nouveau-disco gauntlet, and certainly sets an unpredictable agenda with a title that seemingly eschews any contemporary popular reference points while featuring cover versions of songs by The Replacements and… well, someone else which I’ll get to in a minute.
World, You Need a Change of Mind certainly gets off to a promising start with ‘Seod’, the track’s introduction all luscious synths and guitar – sparkling melodies and searching guitar which settles into a techno throb, Bainbridge’s voice pitched at a laid back swoon. Minor key changes throw you into a calm and lost disco netherworld – this is pure NYC retro which, while hardly threatening, is more than diverting. Next up is the aforementioned Westerberg song, ‘Swingin Party’, which is confident, laid back, loose and quite charming flowing off a glistening keyboard line. Of course The Replacements were anything but laid back, and Bainbridge’s swingin’ party would seem to be of a very different variety to the one that Westerberg was writing about but that’s surely the point of a cover version and the distinctiveness of an artist who can revision the work of someone else.
Despite lacking any kind of real edge, the first two songs are captivating enough. But then we reach the album’s third track, another cover version, this time being… Anita Dobson’s ‘Anyone Can Fall in Love’!? This “song” for those that don’t know is a re-working of the Eastenders theme tune by one of that show’s original stars and is, in no uncertain terms, dreadful. Despite the banality of the melody itself and its utter over-familiarity to anybody who knows it (it must be known to every single person in the UK for a start), the song is hooked around a lyrical conceit that is meant to be profound but lacks any real insight. Ok sure, it’s hardly a “straight” version, pivoting on an R&B swing, but feels so forced, so uncomfortable within itself and well, just completely pointless.
At this point things start to spiral out of control. Or maybe just not out of control enough. ‘Gee Up’ for instance gets funky and exhorts us to “Get up / Get Down / Get Up / Get Down” without giving even a half-decent reason to do so. ‘That’s Alright’ attempts to kick it with a gigantic Wendy and Lisa splurge of attitude, Prince-like guitar and samples of “Brother / Brother / Brother” and “The beat is bad…” but it sounds as dangerous as picnicking on the shores of Monte Carlo or doing grime karaoke with your Uncle Tarquin. ‘Bombastic’ just isn’t, and instead drops straight in to the kind of jazz funk so light that it would cause extreme dismay at the wedding of a work colleague. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we’re then granted a spoken list of influences.
There’s no denying that this album has its moments. ‘Cyan’ is gorgeous – the richness of the production, the vaguely melancholy melody and Bainbridge’s finally yearning vocal end up delivering the best Arthur Russell pastiche you’re likely to hear all year. But I’m not even going to get in to Russell here as generally speaking, there is not even a semblance of comparable complexity, heartbreak or imagination.
World, You Need a Change of Mind ends up taking the lowest common denominator thrills from styles that are already losing their fleeting lustre – nu-disco, chillwave and hypnogogic pop – and where Hercules & Love Affair pack the glamour, swagger and melodrama, Washed Out succeed through huge over-saturated production and Toro Y Moi has the song writing skills, the unpredictability and a wicked way with an edit, Kindness seems too well-mannered, and too disinterested in comparison.
I always thought that disco’s perfect assessment can be found in that old Woody Allen line, “Life is full of pain, misery and despair and it’s all over far too quickly.” Has any genre ever extracted so much addictive heartbroken joy in the fleetingness of the moment and the in-built tragedy of every high? World, You Need a Change of Mind suffers from this lack of suffering. There are much worse records out there but at the end of the day, and somewhat ironically, it’s just much too kind.