Playing on Prefix is a feature on KCRW’s Music Blog in which writers from the eclectic music site Prefix hip you to what’s coming out of their computer speakers each week.
If Hot Tub Time Machine proved anything (bear with me), it’s that most of America still remembers the ’80s as an era of laughably bad fashion and even worse music. And yet the small, inbred indie-rock universe seems to remember things differently.
In the last year alone, new bands like Weekend, Frank (Just Frank), and Wild Nothing have constructed aural altars to the Great Gods of ’80s Sad-Sackery: The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division, the more Joy Division-y New Order songs.
With “By the Hedge,” Brooklyn’s MINKS have gone ahead and done the same. You could call it indie-rock comfort food, but there’s enough distortion and echo in the mix to make it an acquired taste — and one well worth acquiring.
Not much is known about MINKS at this point, which fits the band’s cryptic aesthetic.
It’s ostensibly just Shaun Kilfoyle (vocals, guitar) and Amalie Brunn, but their live set-up has featured as many as six musicians. We also know that they’re big on classic goth signifiers. The “Funeral Party” 7-inch they released has an androgynous, straight-out-of-Central Casting goth on its cover looking almost pensive, and Kilfoyle has professed a love for the macabre gothic illustrator Edward Gorey.
And then there’s the music itself, which seems stolen from some lost 4AD classic; imagine someone playing you early Cure records while you sleep off a bad acid trip, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what “By the Hedge” is all about.
“Funeral Song,” MINKS‘ first single, sees Kilfoyle taking a joyous piss on chillwave’s grave and ushering in the New Era of Goth: “So long summertime, and I like it,” he sings, and it’s about as cheerful (and as lucid) as he gets throughout “By the Hedge’s” 37-minute running time.
The rest of the track’s (and the album’s) vocals are obscured by noise, echo, and drizzling synths, so we never do get to figure out just why Kilfoyle is so happy to be done with the summer. Some safe bets: Cure albums sound way better in the winter, and it’s hard to wear your trench-coat when it’s 90 degrees outside.
On “Juniper” and “Arboretum Dogs,” the album’s closing tracks, Kilfoyle and Brunn wash off the eye-liner and let us see the longing in their eyes. Those tracks turn what could have been an album-length exercise in icy detachment into something more human, and they shed all the preceding tracks in a new (dying, winter) light. It makes spinning the album again (and again, and again) well worth your while: You have to hunt for the hooks under all that noise, but the effort pays off when they finally reveal themselves.
Make sure to get your fix of MINKS before the winter is over. This is music that will make
a lot less sense when it’s sunny out.
— by Daniel Kolitz