KALEB MCKANE takes hypnotizing musical incursions into progressive and psychedelic rock — to lead us to a place where Freddie Mercury and Mick Ronson once made sweet electric dreams.
Last night we went to the launch gig at the Camden Assembly, London for Kaleb’s debut E.P. “Universe in Reverse” – described by us as: “An exploration of desire and passion [where] the wunderkind meditates on the birth and death of a multi-sequinned universe...”
And at the wonderful Camden venue we had the chance to see him play live through the E.P. [non-stop] before the young polymathmatic crackerjack introduced us to a selection of deluxe and fancy songs from his forthcoming album — expected sometime next year.
With a talented diamond-dog ensemble, Kaleb took the stage (after an astonishing support-set from “Tailor” we might add) — to bring us his exploratory “mini-symphonies” of desire and passion.
This was art rock with schizoid-symphonic pretenses, incorporating a healthy dose of psychedelia, a slightly encamped aesthetic… and lots ‘n’ lots of forever-culminating honey-sweet guitar. So imagine the sophisticated end of glam-rock (“For Your Pleasure” Roxy, for example) to get an idea of the glamaholic glitter involved, but with Snowy White on lead guitar…
The numbers in the grand song cycle of “Universe in Reverse” were full of harmonic and melodic hooks… and performed with superabundant posture and flourishing mellifluence. New songs included “Great Anti-Climax” with profoundly heavy bass-play, expressive keys (they put us in mind of Pyjamarama-era Eno) and with Kaleb combining the enchanting allusion of Ian Hunter, the melodic expression of Jeff Buckley and the guitar virtuosity of Mick Ronson.
The Camden set was a gloriously oratory affair — with a profusion of dramatic riffs, ornamental rhythms and enlightening songcraft. The focus of attention — Kaleb is every inch the definitive RocknRolla — resembled a young Mick Jagger [lissom, sullen, lordly] who sang like David Bowie circa 1970, yet played guitar like Prince.
If you’re old enough to remember that the “Little Ladies” opened for the concept rocker “Stevie Streeter” (The Band Who Wouldn’t Die) … or perhaps you’re too young for the Rock Follies but you’ve watched all the re-runs of Whistle Test and would love to take a balmy/barmy nostalgia trip back to the “Seven Seas of Rhye” … Kaleb ought to be right up your street.
Supernova superstardom can’t come quick enough for this guy. And the thought came to mind, as we watched him prink and plume on the London stage: where’s he been hiding his lustre all this while? Is he from Outer Space?
The only problem (if there is one) is this: how will the music industry label his music? How does he fit into today’s genres? It’s way-too commercial to be seen as shoe-gaze or indie-rock, much too glamorous to be post-punk, and too aggressive to be baroque. And, to be honest, it’s too authoritative to be glam. But Queen didn’t fit into any easy pigeonhole when they arrived from nowhere did they? And, my-oh-my, didn’t they exceed expectations?
We left Camden with this thought in mind: If Ziggy hadn’t broken up the band… this is what they would have become. And, perhaps, as Kaleb would tell you himself… everything comes around, life’s a circle:
Welcome back to 1971.