A Review of The Benji’s new EP, Kitty Pills
The Benji’s are without a doubt one of the coolest bands in Rhode Island. They’ve been releasing music since 2015 and are one of the state’s most beloved live acts, opening for bands such as The Motels. So, when they reached out to me a few months ago and asked me to review their newest EP, I was honored and excited.
Their new EP, Kitty Pills, which was released on Valentine’s Day, is an important one for many reasons. For starters, it’s their first collection of songs released since 2015’s EP1. While they’ve released a song or two since then, this marks the band’s first proper release in eight years. The second reason is because it marks a shift in sound for the band. On these six songs, the overall sound is a lot crunchier and distorted, making it much more like their live shows. The band is a three piece without a bass player, meaning that during shows the guitar has to be crunchy and the keys have to be fuzzy to fill up space. This EP has that in spades.
A perfect example of this is the leadoff track “Good Living.” The track instantly kicks off with guitars and drums that hit the listener like a bullet train. At times, such as the end of the chorus, the wall of grainy sound abates briefly to allow some breathing room. Arpeggiated, clean guitars peek out among hits on the ride cymbal before the sonic tsunami hits once again. A fuzz-coated solo from guitarist Philip Geronimo is the cherry on top.
The next track is the title track and it decreases the tempo while increasing the impact of the dynamic changes. A steady beat laid out on the floor tom and the snare by drummer Adam Cargin opens the track, after which the guitar comes in, weaving between each hit. Quieter moments such as these allow singer and keyboardist Maryssa Morse to shine. On previous recordings, Morse’s voice was more obscured by the instrumentation. However, on this EP, her voice is front and center. Considering she has a great voice, this is certainly an improvement. The peace set up during the verses is shattered after a brief pause by the absolute juggernaut of the chorus, during which the walls of fuzz and distortion come back in.
The noise continues on the third track, lead single “Shimmering.” Clocking in at only a minute and a half, the song wastes no time, barreling through at breakneck speed. Morse’s voice surfs waves of rumbling synth bass and heavy guitar, propelled by fast drumming on a Benji’s. The whole track feels like a 90’s power pop song in the vein of bands like The Muffs. Overall, it was a very wise choice as a lead single, since it is so markedly different from anything the band had released up until this point. A Strokes-esque guitar break in the middle of the song makes the track even better.
For the most part, the song “Tapes” mellows things out, a chill 6/8 time beat propping up breezy guitar and Morse’s voice. As with “Kitty Pills,” however, the sound once again gets ramped up for a powerful, anthemic chorus. The length of this song is also under two minutes, and just as quickly as the noise balloons up, the track ends, leading right into “Skate,” a fun garage rock tune that sounds just like something out of the west coast. A persistent drum beat plays under crisp guitar chords. The bridge mixes things up by going in a more ethereal direction, adding keys outside of the bass to the mix.
The last track, “Bad Sign,” is also in 6/8 time, though it moves a bit faster than “Tapes.” While the guitars are still crunchy, they aren’t as bombastic as they are on some of the other songs, instead sticking more to the background. This makes sense considering it’s the last track on the EP; it’s as if the band is playing itself out. Geronimo gets one last chance to show off his soloing skills, playing his longest one on the entire EP. After one final triumphant chorus, the song and the EP both come to a close.
These six songs are all a pleasure to listen to, and I highly recommend it to everyone! You can check out The Benji’s on Instagram @thebenjis401, as well as on every music streaming platform.