Kid Mud was Sean Duncan, an indie rock vet formerly of Fiver, but with
the release of full length debut Now They Shut Us Down Kid
Mud has seemingly morphed beyond "one man band" status into something
larger than the sum of its parts. Early Kid Mud recordings were solo
efforts, with Duncan playing each and every instrument like some sort
of YouTube rockstar. This latest effort, however, was also partly
recorded at Mountain Ghost, allowing Duncan the ability to not only
incorporate a richer, lusher sound with more varied instrumentation
(both electronic and live), but a diverse range of artists including
his own sister Shannon, who sings backup on several tracks.
The brief "Eviction" starts the album with a Modest Mousey sound (with
just the faintest hint of Ugly Casanova), simple strumming guitar and
vocals that drop in and out. If Eviction throws Duncan out on the
street, "1095" -- the second track and true album opener -- is a
veritable road song, drumbeat marching along with the dotted white
lines as Duncan's doubled-up vocals drift somewhere near Lost in
Translation territory. "Not Far, New Far" is a slower piece,
Americana through and through, crying steel guitar and melancholy
vocals, simultaneously channeling Silver Jews and The Last Town
Chorus; "Numbers and Graphs" has a similar vibe, though its chord
progression is more reminiscent of Counting Crows and the mix puts
Duncan further back in the room.
At every turn, Now They Shut Us Down seems to throw something
unexpected into the mix. Lead single "Federated" has a poppy, radio-
friendly vibe with a mix of live instruments and a bleepy-bloopy
bridge, the end credits to something smack in the middle of the album.
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You" drops Faint-esque electronica and
loopy drums behind the somewhat ironic lyric, "and nothing seems to
change." Immediately thereafter, "Tempera" turns down the lights and
takes it down a notch, to a darker, more melancholy place, slow drums
and sad vocals from somewhere around 3 am when she just called and
broke your heart into pieces. "909 Garden" is a nearly seven-minute-
long semi-duet with the legendary Jim Ruiz, something like Primitive
Radio Gods meets Leonard Cohen. "Guidelines For Style" is a waltz.
"Questions or Comments" is a veritable sea shanty. "Shadowbox" goes
from banjo to violin without missing a beat.
Kid Mud's sound has been compared to the likes of Ween, Rogue Wave,
Sparklehorse and Postal Service, and Now They Shut Us Down
definitely contains echoes of those, and other indie favorites. The 13-
song album is anything but unlucky, its diverse soundtrack deftly
telling a tale of loneliness, regret and redemption, of dark times and
the light at the end of the tunnel. Though lyrically it is
occasionally a bit repetitious, sonically it's a trip worth taking,
with 13 distinct pictures from an exposition right on the edge of
twilight. In "The Godfather," the album's closing track, Duncan sings
"If we win it will be tomorrow; if we lose it will be today." For Kid
Mud, it certainly seems like tomorrow is going to be a pretty good day.
Favorite Track: "Tempera"