Review: "Science is Magic," by The Kinetiks

The Kinetiks are (from left) Spencer Goertz-Giffen, Jason Kniep, Rani Waugh and Phil Gratz.

The Kinetiks are (from left) Spencer Goertz-Giffen, Jason Kniep, Rani Waugh and Phil Gratz.

The Kinetiks new album "Science is Magic" is a bricoleur’s rock and roll manifesto.

Recorded and mixed by Stuart Sullivan (of Meat Puppets fame), these eight tracks are a carnival-ride fusion of disco, '80s pop-punk, darker '90s themes. It's a fun, synth-filled distortion fest that channels a Pixies-esque modulation between loud and soft, invitation and rejection. The melodies are as contagiously idiosyncratic as the music is straightforward — everything centers on Spencer Goertz-Giffen’s range of vivid vocal personas and penetrating electric guitar work.

The first track, “Planet Future,” begins with a call-to-arms dialogue between bassist Phil Gratz and drummer Jason Kniep. Like a giant apocalyptic machine coming to life, “Planet Future” builds quickly, climbing fifths until, at once, Goertz-Giffen’s heavily punctuated guitar pokes through, driving the song down — as if being dropped from a plane — and tangles all the way to earth with Rani Waugh’s soaring psychedelic synth lines.

Past Event

The Kinetiks CD release party

  • Friday, December 18, 2009, 9 p.m.
  • Bottleneck, 737 New Hampshire, Lawrence
  • All ages / $5


Another highlight, “Dig a Hole,” combines wall-of-sound guitars with a sampling of '70s disco drum loops, expertly elaborated on by Kniep, as well as bass leads from Gratz, who kicks off the track with a promise of straightforward, naked velocity — music as time. Like many songs on this album, “Dig” demonstrates a deft sampling of decades, styles, and motifs. It snaps back and forth from syncopated disco moments dominated by Waugh’s synth work to sparse '80s pop-punk instrumentation and Goertz-Giffen’s laser-like vocals.

More than any of their previous recordings, this album taps into The Kinetiks’ distinctive live-show energy. Still, you'll need to catch them in their element to truly appreciate the band's spirit. The release show for "Science is Magic" is Friday at The Bottleneck.


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