No Serial Killer – No Serial Killer – Singles Review/Album Sampler
Betcha there will be more than one typo in this review!
That’s right – we’re starting this off with an inside joke. Kind of.
If you haven’t read the seven page review I published here last week on the music of No Serial Killer of which I somehow managed to defy all the odds and only write one mistake into it, then click here to catch up! We’re in the middle of a million-song album here…and rather than detail all the backstory to it, the best way to go about it is to have the rest of you out there read your way towards where I’m at. We experienced a sample range from throughout the set of this self-titled record last time around, and with it pulling pieces from the beginning to the end, we’re essentially doing that same thing again here today…which…I’ll admit, probably goes down as one of the strangest ways I’ve listened to a new record.
So let’s see…what’s essential for you to know prior, just in case… I suppose it’s best to start with this all being based around the concept of serial killing being a bad, bad thing…which I maintain, is something we all pretty much universally agree upon, do we not? What No Serial Killer really has on their hands here is a theatrical play or a Rock Opera of sorts…whether that’s the complete intentions behind it all or not, I know that’s where I’d take it from here that’s for sure – it sure all sounds like it has that dramatic flair to it, made to entertain an audience with scenes or visuals to accompany it & provide more context. I’d be like that dude wandering in off the street catching a couple cuts at a time, trying to figure out what the story really is with the methods I’ve employed in listening to these songs from random parts of the eighty-three song playlist…I’m thinking it’s a lot tougher to piece it all together the way I’m doin’ it.
Anyhow. This time around, I started at song seventeen with “Know Cereal Killa” on my way back into this record. Dig the guitars in this tune supplied by Bart…that’s the major asset to this particular track. Some of these tunes certainly feel & sound like standalone ideas…”Know Cereal Killa” ain’t one of’em though…this is definitely one of those cuts where it’s very much relegated to whether or not you really dig on theatrical style tunes. I like the backing vocals…and somewhat similarly to the last time in review, I feel like Nicki Gonzalez does what she can with the material she has; some of these lines are really well detailed, others like “well you could be mine, because you are so fine” might seem like they need a lot more. I’m not saying lines like these don’t serve a function for the overall story, I’m simply pointing out the potential for more to exist within the art is all. If Neil Young wants to call me up and have a long conversation about “hey hey, my my, rock & roll will never die,” believe me, I’m equally game for that too. I just call things as I hear’em. It’s not so much the line itself that stands out to me, but the amount of room that exists in “Know Cereal Killa” that seems like it’s got Nicki running the gamut of timing to try & keep up with where to fit each syllable in. She clearly holds her own but it’s not the easiest task. That being said, again, if this was in the context of some kind of overall musical or whatnot, those tiny spaces where you feel like that next syllable should be, or another word entirely, become quite useful onstage.
Case in-point, by comparison, you can hear how a song like “Close Ta You” would have no problem standing on its own…and I’d probably put this right up there with my favorites from No Serial Killer so far. Audrey does a spectacular job on the main hooks of this song, the subtle piano melody from A.K.M. guides it her along perfectly, and the guitars add that extra layer of quaint, welcoming, and pleasant sound into the mix that ties it all together in such a warm & endearing way. With the context of this horror-based concept and the themes of stalking & serial killin’ to be found along the way, there’s no pushing past the creepiness that can put into even the most sincere melodies, “Close Ta You” included; but if you can somehow…like…block that part out for a moment, you’ve got yourself a truly undeniably sweet tune with this song and an alluring vibe that’s bound to catch a lot of deserved attention. Audrey singing with Nicole in the harmonies…I mean c’mon y’all – they nail this melody & prove to be absolutely aces in this song. Not a doubt in my mind it’s one of the strongest & most beautiful I’ve heard from No Serial Killer so far as I’ve been listening to this point – “Close Ta You” digs into the many complexities of desire, love, infatuation & wanting to be close to that special someone…likely for forever & ever, amen.
I mean…part of me has a theory that this doesn’t have to ALL necessarily be related conceptually, and maybe that makes it easier somehow, I’m not sure. Like, if you’re looking at this from the perspective of someone that’s trying to be serial killin’ and you factor in the aspirational & inspiring vibes of encouragement on “Never Give Up” – I mean, that’s just weird then right? Or if you’re more onboard with the goals of this being centered around the preventing of serial killing…then…sure – maybe use this track as the soundtrack to your motivation to help keep the killing in the neighborhood to a minimum? I am still scratching my head just trying to catch up to whatever it is that No Serial Killer has got going on throughout this self-titled record and make no bones about the fact that most of the time I’m probably lost & wandering out-loud trying to figure it all out. I like this tune though…ultimately, there’s not a ton to it, but that’s kind of what makes it great too; the subtle way it’s designed through the performance & production allows for the breakthrough notes sung by Juliet to provide generous highlights to enjoy. No matter what the context may or may-not be, at the end of the day, “Never Give Up” is an inspiring track that sits comfortably in the middle between a standalone song, and one that needs additional story to it.
Am I hearing this right? “Why does nobody care? I wish I had your hair.” Did I get that correctly? No real further comment on that really…again, that’s just a strange line in “Yes I Do” that would stand out to anyone listening I’d imagine, cause yep, that’s weird. This is that point where you start to feel love turn into something dangerous…and the push/pull of unrequited feelings…which apparently are most often felt from a significant distance. No Serial Killer gets pretty stalker-y here…straddling that line between the sincerity of love and the horrific implications of infatuation quite brilliantly, allowing just enough interpretive values into the writing that the creepiness might just escape a few people listening to the shiny melody on the surface before they realize what they’re singing along with. From self-doubt to self-loathing, to a growing menace occurring in the feelings department, No Serial Killer has put together a genuinely crafty tune with “Yes I Do” – I felt like this was a rad cut to dig right into. Fairly bare bones as many of them are with such minimalistic tendencies & ingredients to the music, but highly entertaining by any measure all the same. Conceptually, musically, vocally…I felt like “Yes I Do” was one of the stronger & more complete examples of what No Serial Killer has been about, & what they can do.
Audrey’s a real star…that much I can say with concrete certainty. Doesn’t matter which track she seems to show up on, she’s got a great understanding of how to get the most out of her vocals, and she’s got a real inherent spark to her sound that always seems to lift these songs up in a variety of ways. I like that tracks like “Have You Seen Sue” have elements that harken back to the golden era of music and provide that warm & comforting vibe with how the backing vocals of Hila complement Audrey’s lead. The guitar, though a fairly minimal part of the song overall, is outright essential here…fantastic tone from Nicky that works excellently with A.K.M.’s piano & the vocals throughout this song. “Have You Seen Sue” uses that natural innocence & brightness of Audrey’s voice to maximum effect…No Serial Killer gets miles of pure sweetness out of this song, while keeping the lurking creepiness relegated to the shadows of the corner.
Where things get a bit trickier in the design of the vocal melodies & patterns overall, especially within the confines of an eighty-three track record, is where they start to overlap & display similarities. Listening to “My Friend” felt like I had already heard it by the time it came on…and that should likely be somewhat of a concern for No Serial Killer…if things are this close to something I’ve already heard from them, it’s probably the best time to edit it all back to an eighty-two track record & show a little restraint, you dig? That being said, it’s still well-played, still has appeal to it, Deb does a solid & soulful job on the microphone and the music has verifiable rhythm & groove to it…it’s playful, but still more complex than anything might appear when it comes to the lyricism or what it might seem to be with its sunny-side up demeanor. It’s not an exact carbon copy of something else they’ve already done, but yeah…it’s harder to say whether or not it’s got enough differences to it in order to stand out enough from the rest and be memorable in that respect too. I enjoyed it…I’m not gonna overhype the experience by any means, “My Friend” kinda is what it is to me…nothing offensive by any stretch of the imagination, but not necessarily a song that has me screaming for a repeat either…satisfying yes, but maybe still a lil’ something missing.
Things seemed to get even stranger when “Here To Stay (Mellifluous Mella)” came on…and I started to feel like I’d entered the Twilight Zone for a moment, or Groundhog Day. The thing is…with the piano taking over for the bass, it’s quite likely that we’re bound to notice those similarities between the material more than we would otherwise, you follow me? If it was just bass doing what bass does, we’d all likely leave it at that & never even think twice about it – but “Here To Stay (Mellifluous Mella)” also seemed to carry more bold similarities to what I’ve heard from No Serial Killer so far. Some of that’s due to the music, some of that’s due to the poetic design of the lyrics being a bit the same from track to track as well…I’m not trying to be a drain on anyone’s life over here…I’m just tellin’ ya what I hear. I dig the fact they’ve slipped in the classic Clint Eastwood line…I love the guitars in the mix…I think the world of how Mella sings – I think she’s got an absolutely fantastic voice and all the hallmarks of a superstar; there are still lots of positives to be found here, even with the many similarities also acknowledged. It’s played well…and No Serial Killer makes a lot of insightful points both directly & indirectly through the lyrics. All-in-all, “Here To Stay (Mellifluous Mella)” works its charm on ya until you can’t resist anymore.
There does seem to be more sweetness on display through this latest set of fourteen I’m checking out here – and you can include “I Don’t Mean Maybe” within that assessment. Tracks like these are cute by design, inoffensive, and quite often endearing…I’ve got no problem at all putting this tune on and listening to Deb work her magic from the mic and the music provide the gentle platform for her to sing from. The combination is actually quite stellar…there’s the occasional note here & there that perhaps could have come out a bit smoother…maybe…but overall, I’m pretty stoked about this track and the end results. There’s a bit of bizarre low-end swell that occurs at a few points that seems to cloud things a little in the mix, but not enough to be a detriment to the beautiful hooks here or the soulful tones of Deb at her best…”I Don’t Mean Maybe” draws on the classics of the golden era once again, and delivers. Overall, this is right in the pocket for No Serial Killer and a groove you can genuinely feel; it still retains the theatrical nature, style & spirit of their music, but this is another song that could truly stand alone. Even with its radiant & unapologetic throwback vibes, I’d still be looking at this cut as a potential single.
“Music Is Dead.” Not if I have anything to say about it, otherwise I may as well fold up shop here I’d wager. I’ll tell ya this much for certain, I feel like I could pick Audrey’s vocals out of a lineup blindfolded at this point…she’s really got her own sound and she brings a ton of vibrant personality to these songs by No Serial Killer. As I mentioned last time around and still believe, A.K.M. has done a solid job in captaining this ship and steering it in the direction he was looking for this musical vessel to sail in – he’s found the right voices & right players for the right moments and in that respect, I salute the man behind the curtain and credit the Wizard of Oz here for the smart choices being made. While obviously I can’t support the main theme of this song with my current vocation being what it is, I’d be lyin’ to ya by omission if I didn’t say I love what I hear in this tune. At the end of the day, “Music Is Dead” is more about the yearning for a real connection than it is implying that music is altogether dead…which I can sympathize & empathize with. Part of that yearning for a real connection comes through in the main theme, some of it comes through a more personified form in the storyline in between characters and the feelings involved…but there’s yearning, for sure, that’s what it is. I know yearning when I hear it. I dig this track personally, “Music Is Dead” was surprising to me in that sense…I almost assumed that the odds would be stacked against me liking this one, but quite frankly, it’s a whole lot of fun & sweetness combined. Audrey makes such impressive magic happen from the mic it’d be impossible not to love her.
Alrighty…they gotta stop doin’ this to me because it keeps making me feel like I’m the one that’s crazy. When “Yeah” came on right afterwards and essentially used the same piano ideas to support this song in the way that they were just used on “Music Is Dead” beforehand, it’s impossible not to notice. And now they’ve got me yearning…for something a little different, you know what I mean? Yeah “Yeah” is different…enough…but like…I mean this is what I’ve been trying to tell ya as gently as I can No Serial Killer – it’d be too much over the course of eighty-three tracks for most I’d think. The differences that are supplied mainly by the uniqueness in the singers featured counts for some versatility, don’t get me wrong – but the similarities I’ve already found within the twenty-eight tracks I’ve listened to definitely has me wondering how much more is in the tank here. I grew up on piano – that’s what my old man plays professionally…A.K.M. knows just as much as I do there are limitless possibilities as to what that fantastic instrument can do, and it’s more than clear he knows how to use it – so let that creativity soar my brother! Let the rules go, and see where you can take it all without as many restrictions and a bit of the ol’ wildness in there. Not the kind of wildness of the low-end of the guitar towards the middle & end of “Yeah” – that’s way overboard & not mixed into this cut in any kind of friendly way – but wildness in terms of allowing the piano to be just as much of the star of the show as anything else & take the lead every once in a while. Ree does a great job…and like everything else, any potential issues aren’t in the execution for the most part…No Serial Killer knows how to put together a good tune, it’s all about being objective from here on in, standing back, listening for those similarities, and deciding what’s really essential to a record. Is every cut on an eighty-three track album gonna be essential? Of course not. That’d be beyond ambitious and quite the lofty goal to have – and I’m confident in that No Serial Killer is more or less testing out the waters to see what works rather than focus on that tightness of an overall experience. Hence the fire-sale here with all the material coming out in this one massive dose. Doing that will reveal highlights for sure, but as you can tell, it also reveals other things along the way too.
There we go – “I Cry” is a perfect example by contrast – there’s uniqueness here, and tons in regards to the songs on this record…even when A.K.M. switches it up to his signature light sprinkle of keys on the surface, this cut still retains a more innovative & noticeably creative design. Sammie makes her first appearance in this set of songs and does an excellent job, holding her own confidently on a record that’s full of highly capable voices & competent musicianship. Hooks are strong here…much credit to Sammie for enhancing the way that they come out through the passion she sings with…but all around, I dig it quite a bit – she’s got swagger & style and she brings a ton of character to “I Cry” through the textures, tones, and qualities of her vocals. Caught in a sea of despair, this cut examines isolation and being too far away from the one you wanna be with, and trying to navigate that whole set of emotions out-loud in real time. Crisp & steady beats from Caleb on the drums, sensationally soulful vocals from Sammie…”I Cry” has a little something for everyone when it comes right down to it – it’s one of the stronger cuts that I’ve found on this record so far for sure, and notably one of the most versatile in structure & design.
After the last review, I was informed directly that No Serial Killer digs repetition. I don’t. There ya have it – differences make the world go around. I’ve done my best to see it from their point of view, and perhaps they’ll just have to do the same and try it from mine; as listeners, the similarities simply stack up too closely to not feel like we’re somewhat stuck in sort of wild time warp…and I’m not quite sure there’s another conclusion to be had. I don’t begrudge this band for wanting to rock the way they wanna rock and do what they wanna do – have at it! I’m all about it. But at the end of the day, you gotta be ready for the feedback that’s comin’ your way when the music goes out into the court of public opinion…and I think No Serial Killer has gotta brace themselves a bit when it comes to their expectations and what we’d be hearing, outside of the concept, outside of the music, outside of the actual band. Individually, any one of these songs has a decent chance and the opportunity to make an impact on ya – but this closely together, on this much of an enormous album…I mean, I probably sound like a broken record myself here, but there’s so much risk being added inherently into the way this is all put together. “Love Me (Extended Piano Mix)” has its advantage displayed right there in the title – and the addition of Jon on the ivory keys was a fantastic move to liven this particular cut and make it stand out a lil’ more. Mella is as stellar as ever, and gets a lot of tangible tone & sweetness & confidence into the melody; if this was my one & only experience with No Serial Killer I’d be all over this track for sure – but it’s hard to argue that the amount of this certain style of song being featured so often doesn’t somewhat water it all down by proxy. I’ve also been told that this self-titled record is going to be the only one that’ll exist…so really, I mean, you can take or leave anything I say as anyone always should & likely does…maybe these are important observations to the future of some other project, but as far as I’ve been informed, this will be the one & only album by No Serial Killer…even if it’s still like, six or seven records in total length.
While I understand that it’s the intention of this band to have the main differences being made by the vocals & guitars you’ll find…again…once I’m thirteen songs deep and I’m onto “Emotions” and it starts up with that familiar piano line another time…I’m just not quite sure what else they would want me to say about it, and I’m not sure how I can just ignore it and not comment either. If this was just left to a bassist…and they pulled the same thing in not switching it up enough, I know I’d say something in that instance too…there needs to be more diversification in the music…I can’t see or hear it any other way. I’m not all that confident that what is perceived as making these songs as different as their intended to become is achieved by the means & methods they’re employing – that make sense? Something in the approach needs to adjust…otherwise, I can guarantee people are gonna start getting restless, even if they absolutely adore the sound of what they hear. Too much of any one thing is bound to meet resistance…and there’s an aspect of the way No Serial Killer is putting these songs together that’s diving way too far into the rabbit hole without coming back out to see where things have ended up overall. Or maybe it’s just me – I’m always willing to concede that – maybe…it’s just…me. I suppose time will tell. Other opinions will chime in…a consensus will be reached, eventually. Consider the source my friends, that’s all I gotta say…I’ve got no vested interest here other than wanting No Serial Killer to be at their best & excel in what they do. Sometimes that means a little bit of tough lovin’ & reality-checks; so be it.
Isn’t this project based outta the UK? We’re lovin’ on the USA now? Are we still serial killin’? Err…I mean, waging musical warfare against serial…killer-ing? I’ve got “In The USA (Sigue Sigue Sputnik Mix) as the final cut here by No Serial Killer…I can’t help but feel we’ve drifted a lot far from the original concept that was driving this record, but that’s impossible for me to really know with the way I’ve been listening to its lineup in bits & pieces. And we’re back onto the hair thing again? What’s up with that? This is…the credits though, is it not? I ain’t gonna lie, this ends up being a bit scattered when put up against the idea housing the songs on this record and its underlying concept…not sure if I was able to connect the final dots here…just sounded like a fairly straightforward, lovin the USA type-tune, and hey, right on, have at’er hoss. Deb will shout out a few of the members we’ve encountered along the way, and I suppose wraps this experience up with what’s definitely a conclusive kind of song…like, because we know the names involved, it feels like we’ve reached the end in that regard, if not the storyline. I don’t really have that patriotic spirit I admire so much in other people…I’d tell Bruce Springsteen the same thing…I don’t even really like “O Canada” all that much and I freakin’ live here – it’s just a tougher type of song to like with a narrower scope is all. For you folks out there in the USA, you never know – you might have just found your celebratory song for the upcoming fourth of July to raise a glass to.
Maybe a bit more of a mixed result for me after a deeper dive into the music of No Serial Killer – but the bottom line is, they’re enjoying every minute of what they do, making their songs exactly the way they wanna make’em. At the end of the day, I’d be the last person to tell them to change anything at all – keep doing what you love folks, loud’n’proud, no matter what I say, or anyone else does for that matter.
Find out more about No Serial Killer at their official page at Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/NoSerialKOfficial
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