“Kiwi Minor” — The Barracudas
“They call us Reynolds Wrap,” Rhyme Mind Theory frontman Lennox Gonzalez says without irony in 2009, “because we keep it fresh.” And he’s not joking. Well he’s joking, but not in the sarcastic, meta-joke way you’d think, not unless this is extremely convincing performance art and he’s really committed to the character. He’s just the kind of guy who says shit like that, for whom “keeping it fresh” is still an action worth performing and “one love” and “one time for your mind” still mean something.
If you’re the kind of disillusioned buzz-kill who can’t get past this unguarded earnestness, you’ll probably spend the show leaning against a wall or smirking into your beer. If you’re willing to experience Rhyme Mind Theory on its own terms, you might take it as an invitation to drop your own protective shell for an hour and shimmy and twirl like a worry-free idiot. I wouldn’t know, because I’m apparently one of the self-conscious assholes.
That’s not to say there’s nothing about Rhyme Mind Theory for the jaded to enjoy. Gonzalez’s 311-school rapping combines with loose garage-band funk for an effect that sort-of-but-not-really splits the difference between Rage Against the Machine and War. At his best (“Designs”), Gonzalez is a killer hype man, bouncing around the stage like a second-grader who’s swapped his Ritalin for methamphetamines, talking up his lyrical skill and musicians. A lot of what he’s saying gets lost in the mix, but the band is definitely dance-worthy and heavily beat-oriented, driven by dueling rhythms from Robert Sierra’s drum kit and Jason McKee’s congas. Guitarist Dave McCall’s solos (and there’s always a solo) add some psychedelic blues rock to the fusion, and trumpeter Juan Guerra is versatile, coaxing his horn through passages that range from blunted-duck somber (“Jazz”) to spaghetti-western menace (“Artists Unwind,” “Shogun Symphony”). Bassist Matt Brown has the jazz chops to weave a recognizable structure from it all.
At its most animated, RMT keeps feet moving, exhaling second-hand energy to those willing to breathe it in, but when the pace slows, as it does about three-quarters of the way in during momentum-buster “Jazz,” the audience seems lost. It’s a lengthy interlude in which Gonzalez’s flow slows to spoken-word pace, and the band puts on invisible berets and sunglasses for jazz that’s more Ambien than acid. The attempt at a switch hit by a band so set in its style is commendable, but the placement tonight only serves to illustrate that the setlist is probably a few songs too long. The sameness of Gonzalez’s cadence and subject matter (exception: the bummed out “Something
I ...”), and the music’s jam-driven but formulaic development probably go unnoticed if you’re shaking your ass, but time starts to drag when your back’s to the wall.
— Jeremy Martin
The song begins with something close to a keyboard playing “Down by the River” in demo mode accompanied by only occasional acoustic strumming, and it ends in cartoon lasers. In-between, “Kiwi Minor” seems to branch off, exploring several different variations of itself, while mixing drum machines with banjos, creepy whispers with tambourines, and awesomely untrained vocals with what I’m pretty sure is a semi-articulate toad singing backup. That description actually makes it sound pretty awful, but “Kiwi Minor” is definitely worth hearing.