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Astral Auguries: The Kidnap Soundtrack
Dredging up the musical past for future enjoyment.
At the risk of sounding like the oldest dude on the Internet (excluding political groups on Facebook), it’s weird to think about how shifts in technology and access to media over the last twenty years have drastically changed “consumption” habits for your average music fan.
Before the days of mindless Spotify algorithms and Youtube recommendations, finding new music was… well, not a chore necessarily, but it definitely required a little more work to find that niche artist that no one in your friend circle was talking about.
Such is the case with today’s find: Houston’s The Kidnap Soundtrack.
It all starts with DVDs. Remember those? Those fun little plastic discs that people watched movies on before we all suddenly had access to an infinite supply of commodified streaming libraries and monthly subscription fees?
In 2006, I was living out of home for the first time and enjoying life as a mostly poor but nonetheless agency-rich late teenager. I was working two jobs to pay rent for my shitty sharehouse room and gleefully pissing away excess funds on booze, merch and tickets to hardcore shows and big-name tour stops. One of these miscellaneous purchases was Metal=Life Volume II (2006), a CD/DVD compilation from Hot Topic, Hopeless Records and Sub City Records.
You see, at this point in time, smartphones weren’t really a thing and certainly not ubiquitous in the way they are now. (For instance, I used phone banking to pay my electric bill, if that’s worth anything to you.) And while I had a desktop computer for writing shitty album reviews and surfing the net, YouTube wasn’t yet the cultural force it is today, having only come into being a year earlier.
So, if, like me, you were a budding alt in the making, and you wanted to find new music and watch music videos in glorious 480p resolution, you bought DVD samplers from an actual music store and watched them with your friends while drinking beers to psych yourself up for the show that night.
Now the line-up on this thing was, for 2006, very sick indeed. You had established acts that were already well and truly on my musical radar: Bleeding Through, As I Lay Dying, The Black Dahlia Murder, Evergreen Terrace, Converge, Misery Signals, Parkway Drive, and Every Time I Die.
But then you also had cool shit that I hadn’t heard of and/or seen before, like The Human Abstract, Inked In Blood, Converge, A Life Once Lost, and Despised Icon. For a young hardcore kid and budding metalhead from the other side of the world, this compilation provided access to an entire world of hardcore and metal that was mostly closed off and inaccessible (for the time being).
This compilation leads me to Texan chaotic hardcore outfit The Jonbenét and their track: “Why We’re Dead.” I was already a big fan of sassier, more experimental stuff like The Blood Brothers and the frenzied, chaotic maelstrom offered up by The Chariot. So, what The Jonbenét were doing here on their 2006 album UGLY/HEARTLESS was right up my alley.
I spent a good year or so jamming that record and soaking up anything that hit that bluesy, sludgy, Deep South sweet spot. And then, like most things, I promptly forgot about The Jonbenét and lost them to time’s passing.
That is, until May of this year when an article titled “25 Chaotic Hardcore, Mathcore & Sasscore Albums from the 2000s that are Seminal Today” crossed my feed. Writing for his ‘In Defense of the Genre’ column in BrooklynVegan, Andrew Sacher points out that “there’s been a renewed interest in the 2000s bands who laid the groundwork for this current wave of over-the-top hardcore.” And that’s certainly true, especially for current head-turner groups like Wristmeetrazor, SeeYouSpaceCowboy, The Callous Daoboys, and many others.
However, what really stuck out to me from this list was the inclusion of The Jonbenét’s debut album, The Plot Thickens (2005). As Sacher notes:
“The Blood Brothers spawned a lot of imitators, and the best of them just might have been The Jonbenét. You can't deny the influence, but The Jonbenét did it so well, and by the time they released The Plot Thickens (their not-technically-debut-album which comprised their 2005 split with The Kidnap Soundtrack and the previous year's Five Stories Retold EP), The Blood Brothers were about two albums removed from sounding this much like a raw basement band. The Jonbenét also did put their own twist on it; they went more into straight-up metalcore territory than The Blood Brothers, and they combined their saccharine side and their heavy side in new, interesting ways.”
Reading this thrust The Jonbenét right back into my frontal cortex, so I returned to their output and devoured both The Plot Thickens and UGLY/HEARTLESS in an afternoon. This had me hooked once again and I needed more. The itch was back and intended to scratch it. Looking through Sacher’s list, I found a name hadn’t come across before all those years earlier: The Kidnap Soundtrack.
Hailing from the Houston hardcore scene, The Kidnap Soundtrack are certainly kindred spirits to their Texan brothers in chaos within The Jonbenét.
Releasing music over a brief four-year window from 2003-2007, the band has—until recently—had a discography that’s been both disparate and hard to find, consisting of 2004’s Beauty Is The Other Dancer EP (Moshmellow Records), the aforementioned 2005 split with The Jonbenét, and the previously unreleased four-track American Acupuncture EP, now available through screamo-lords Zegema Beach Records.
Thankfully, the good folks over at Tomb Tree Tapes have also consolidated the band’s discography into a 12-inch vinyl/cassette release that makes their entire output accessible for first-time listeners like myself.
First impressions: This shit rocks. Starting with the American Acupuncture material and working backwards chronologically, “Dakota Mindwalking” makes it painfully clear that we were robbed of having this EP in 2007. The mix has the same grit and texture you’d find on a legion of other chaotic hardcore albums from this period, but there’s something inherently playful about the performances here: penetrating guitar leads, crashing cymbals, searing and earnest vocal shredding, and concussive kick drum salvos.
Things get angular and incisive with cuts like “Better South” and “Camp Here Baby,” oozing swagger into every galloping rhythmic chug and fractured tempo shift. Also, to my seasoned ears, “Rodeo Flounder” sounds like a dead-ringer for a Southern sleaze version of “Ebolorama”—well, that is before the sliding scale chaos hits on the back end.
Moving back through the band’s discography, the mix gets considerably rougher around the edges. However, this messiness only adds to the band’s loose, live-wire energy. See the floor-clearing fight riff mid-section in “Flavor Party” or the instrumental-breakdown-into-discordant-hoedown that closes out “Flying Kits With Bulldozers.” (Man, they really don’t name tracks like they used to.)
By the time you arrive at the sheer carbomb intensity of “Wax Idiotic” and closer “Attack of the Swan,” it’s clear that The Kidnap Society had a lot of potential. Just look at that adorable band photo from 2003, an artifact practically aching with 2000s nostalgia.
It’s wild to think where The Kidnap Society would be today if they had the longevity and staying power of heavy hitters like Every Time I Die and He Is Legend. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. At least I can reflect on the weirdness of leapfrogging through various media platforms and still managing to land on some cool “new” music in 2021.
Stream The Kidnap Soundtrack discography here: Bandcamp