Leicester “trashgaze/screampop” four-piece Kermes’ first LP is a textbook example of what any fan of a cult local act wants when their faves transition from scattergun EPs and one-shots to the full-length format – a distilled essence of everything there is to love about the band, with nothing compromised and everything celebrated exactly the way you’d want it to be.
We Choose Pretty Names is a marked step forward in musicianship and production for Kermes, while retaining all the rawness of their shorter early releases. Frontwoman Emily Rose Teece and fellow guitarist Tom Trigg combine stunningly in places, sometimes offering haunting harmonies, sometimes driving straight through the listener’s chest with untempered force.
Teece’s vocals span a similar range from heartbreakingly melodic to energisingly spiky. Her limitless energy and charisma, the headline attraction of the band’s live shows, is captured beautifully, the songwriting and production of the album constructing a perfect showcase for all her strengths. The rest of the band’s backing vocals are employed to great effect too, particularly bassist Dani Charlton’s flawless contributions to Casting the Creatures and the all-too-short Boyfriend.
But it’s Teece’s lyrics that bring We Choose Pretty Names truly alive. Her sense of where to place a hook is laser-precise, but it never feels less than utterly organic, particularly on the astonishing closing double-whammy of the title track and unapologetic fist-in-the-air trans anthem Yr Beast. Teece’s habit of being at once heart-on-sleeve honest and knowingly witty place the album in the rarest of positions – it’s instantly accessible, but somehow also feels like a cult classic you’ve finally understood after years. It welcomes you through the door, but also commands immediate lifelong loyalty. It is, in short, a Kermes gig on record – and that’s the highest compliment one could pay it.
Pre-Order We Choose Pretty Names now from Kermes’ Bandcamp.