Butler County Times Gazette
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REVIEW: Springsteen fans will relate to Kingsley Flood’s ‘Battles’
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The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than ...
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Bruce Springsteen
The writers of this blog are not music critics, and they don't consider a second (or third, fourth or fifth) mortgage to be a perfectly reasonable course of action to pay for front-row tickets, but despite being a whole lot more middle aged than they were when they first put Born in the U.S.A. or The River down on the turntable, still feels like Bruce has something -- OK, a lot of things -- to say about our country and the way we live our lives, things that not a lot of other artists are saying. And whether he's talking about the knife that can cut this pain from your heart, the house that's waiting for you to walk in or what that flag flying over the courthouse means, he's nailing down feelings that are so universal that they can raise your spirits and break your heart at the same time. Plus, lets face it, the man rocks.
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By Pete Chianca
Feb. 1, 2013 5:06 p.m.

Its safe to say that those of us turned off by the repetitive sheen of most top 40 pop have welcomed the acoustic revolution spearheaded by the likes of Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers. On the other hand, anyone reared on rock n roll cant help but find himself longing, at least a little bit, for a world beyond the banjos and mandolins. Doesnt anybody own an amp anymore?
With that as the backdrop, Kingsley Floods new LP, Battles, arrives with a wild, welcome kick. The Boston groups 2010 LP Dust Windows had more of a traditional Americana feel, but last years EP Colder Still started to incorporate indie rock elements into their rustic sound.
With Battles, theyve made the full leap into guitar-based rock while holding on to their down-home authenticity. Thats a trick for any band, particularly a young one, and its hard to overstate exactly how well Kingsley Flood does it here.
A good portion of the credit has to go to George Halls stellar guitar work, which is accomplished without being showy it jangles through tracks like the Mersey-tinged Suns Gonna Let Me Shine, while on the driving Down, his psychedelic bursts complement Chris Barretts trumpet blasts to pull the song squarely into the stratosphere. As for the sort-of title track Pick Your Battles, Halls hopped-up blues riffs combine with Naseem Khuris roiling garage-rock keyboards to searing effect.
But none of this would be half as effective if the songs werent actually about something. Kingsley Floods secret weapon is Khuris pitch-perfect lyrics, which pack an incredible breadth of imagery and emotion into their spare stanzas, delivered in a quirky, urgent rasp that anchors them solidly in the here and now. The songs on Battles speak to a modern American dream thats constantly in danger of being pulled under by forces beyond our control, from inside and out.
In fact, Khuris lyrics actually owe a lot to Springsteen, with their references to inner struggles and sullen fathers, not to mention dirty hands and bills unpaid. In that vein, Waiting On The River To Rise is a perfectly realized painting of a man struggling to keep afloat despite Gods apparent indifference: Scratch tickets on my shelf, stains on my knees, pennies in my well, he sings. I got faith in faith, because the other choice is no choice at all.
On other tracks, he grapples with the lure of voices that tell him to get low Ill hold up high my chin and welcome sin on in, he sings on Suns Gonna Let Me Shine, and among the jaunty piano, strings and horns on Kings Men, he seems to accept the inevitability of a great fall: Look in the broken mirror; its only a matter of time.
Broken mirrors, bent knees and chins raised in the face of inescapable adversity pop up frequently on Battles, with some of the most effective imagery coming during the discs quieter moments: On Sigh A While, Khuri sings of our eyes on the horizon, but a lollipop stuck to the floor, his quietly desperate vocals perfectly counter-pointed by Jenee Morgans sweetly realized harmonies.
Such ambitious songwriting is always in danger of sliding into the obtuse, and it happens on occasion here. The sleepwalker never falls down, the wax wing never hits the ground, Khuri sings cryptically on Habit, one of the albums few meandering tracks.
But for the most part, Battles has just the right combination of uncompromising lyrical heft and explosive musicality, and stands to position Kingsley Flood as the ideal rock act for the new millennium: a little kinder than some, perhaps, but by no means gentler.

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