It was a comment that my girlfriend made that initially sparked my interest in Black Kids. “They sound…derivative,” she said, searching for the right word. I wondered, after so much rock heritage, is it still possible to be original? I’m reminded of a conversation I’d had with a songwriter. We were driving in her car, listening to her latest CD. “That’s a total ’50s riff,” I said. She looked puzzled. She had no idea what I was talking about. “Check it out — it breaks here, it does this, it does that,” all of which her song did as if on cue. “Standard ’50s.” She looked at me as if I was accusing her of theft. How can there be plagiarism if all rock can do is recycle itself?
Black Kids are a Jacksonville, Florida, band, and two of the members are African-American. They are front man Reggie Youngblood and his sister Ali; the remaining Black Kids are white. Buzz surrounded their CD Partie Traumatic (2007’s Wizard of Ahhhhs was put out as a digital download), which was released first in the U.K., where they have loyal fan support. The U.S. rock press was equally quick to get on board. If Black Kids are derivative of anything, it is of Morrissey and Arcade Fire. Black Kids match Fire’s shout-down-the-devil fervor from within a cheery stew of melodic ’80s Europop.
It’s an electronic geek-rock sound with a touch of irony, modern R&B, and a sympathetic vocalist who apparently has immersed himself in Greek tragedy and the eternal sore-loser love-dream of young rock: “He’s got two left feet and he bites my moves,” Youngblood sings. “I’m not gonna teach him how to dance! Dance! Dance! Dance!/ The second I do, I know we’re gonna be through.”
BLACK KIDS, Belly Up, Thursday, October 16, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $6.