Album Review: Kittens Ablaze – The Monstrous Vanguard

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Naming a band is a difficult thing to do. It’s rarely fun, and often arduous. Brooklyn sextet Kittens Ablaze can certainly attest to this. Don’t let their too-odd-for-your-parents name fool you, this is a band to be taken seriously. If their recent release, The Monstrous Vanguard, is any indication, loyal fans will be setting fire to their house cats well into the foreseeable future.

Spawning a raucous slew of tunes that sound like they’d be perfect for the iPod of an off-kilter Tim Burton character, this is a band that has the chops and incendiary nuances to remain at the forefront of the alt-rock scene long after their March appearance at SXSW. A healthy catalogue of journeyman musings on the doom and gloom everyday life can throw at you is a sonically refreshing interpretation on what’s possible when six different people bring six different set of influences to the table.

The Monstrous Vanguard
is their recently released LP and it’s awfully difficult to criticize with any negative terminology. Every so often we are graced with the presence of new acts that can carefully craft an album’s worth of memorably quaint instant classics. Despite the bombardment of lyrical melancholy worthy of a shout from emo kids donned in eye-liner nation-wide, Kittens Ablaze pack a definitive punch that carries the underlying downer of introspection on its back and saves the record from becoming a Bright Eyes-esque take on how shitty life can be and why that makes life great.


They don’t so much saunter forth with enthusiastic relevance as they caress listeners with urgent tranquility reminiscent of a less jolly version of Vampire Weekend, and a more focused Arcade Fire. Hotel Room is probably the album’s best song, and once it hits it’s violin-charred refrain you can’t help but want to dance, and grab your significant other before he or she can sway away from you. It’s instant comfort food, and quite filling.

“This Machine is Dying” is one of the most outwardly honest songs written in recent memory. The sharply direct chorus asks, “What… the Hell… Do we do?” – Before jumping into a joint exclamation of the song’s title. It’s rare a band can sling such over-dramatic sentiments without sounding trite. The music fuses fear, anger, and glee together in a way that comes off celebratory without an over-indulgence of bravado that makes sappier bands swing and miss.

Each song has its place. Each fits. Even though Wandering Song insists it’s, “Over, before it’s begun,” Kittens Ablaze are just getting started, and we’re all happier people for it. In order to nail my point home, I will (once again) quote this years best new band by declaring, “How will I ignore you, when you’re gone?”

Hopefully, we won’t have to ask that question about these Brooklyn-based dandies any time soon.

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