Calling this album “Got Nothin’” is a straight up lie.
That’s because it’s got it all; at least, everything a good rock album needs: slick psyched-out riffs, warm tube tones, and skilled shifts of symmetry that balance pop and grit.
After repeated listens, one comes to the realization there’s very little musical territory that these four fellows eschew. It’s the marriage of a myriad of interests, where no dominant school of rock music is ignored.
Classic guitar rock may be the bearded and gruff groom, but the sleek, sexy bride is early 80’s Bowie and neither have been faithful. This intermingling escapes as an assortment of distinct experimental forays, while always sustaining an intrinsic Kujo spirit that’s slightly neurotic but always in control. That spirit is on full display through all 11 songs.
Every songs stretches to be something bigger than a couple of good lines or a catchy guitar hook. There’s a grandiose ethos, but there’s also a sublime understanding that good rock music comes from knowing when to change it up. A pervasive complexity of texture arises throughout the album, but for all of the dynamic meandering there’s a strong foundation for every song.
Recognizing this mix is key to understanding what Kujo does; they make real rock music, but they make it real weird. From the outset, it’s not hard to see that this is not your derivative rock album. “Party Pak” is a high energy dive-in that steadily leads into a screaming outro. Each consecutive song is shaped within its own mold. The title track is a synth-laden groove that sounds little like the songs that bookend it.
In order to bring to light the versatility, one need not look further than a run of three songs in the middle of the album that starts with the sly “Bojangles,” which might be my favourite track. It’s got a Velvet Underground mentality with a reggae core.
It segues into “Pictures of Willy” which comes from the opposite polarity with a great stoner rock riff. Then there’s the upbeat and funky (but beautifully dissonant) single “Wordbird,” finishing off the trio. There’s a Zappa-esque zaniness that pervades “Got Nothin’” but that’s just part of the charm.
Victor Lewis is known to be one of the most ingenious musical voices in the city through his solo work and other collaborations, and this album is no different. It just might be the gold standard of an already strong body of work. It epitomizes what creativity and inspiration can lend to raw talent. To reiterate: Got Nothin’s got somethin’.