Track Attack: Kero Kero Bonito’s “Only Acting” Is Destructionist Pop

Posted: by The Editor

kero kero totep

Kero Kero Bonito are what I’m dubbing a “post-guilty pleasure” act. The British trio’s staggeringly giddy 2016 full-length Bonito Generation established an eccentric middleground between neon-colored electropop, experimental dancehall and modern J-Pop that strangely resonated with a swath of “serious” music fans. Particularly in online communities like r/indieheads and the now only semi-ironic Facebook group “Patrician Music Chartposting: You wish you were this patrish” (which boasts over 43,000 members), people became enamored with Bonito’s playfulness; perhaps since its such a stark alternative to much of the moody, sober and downcast music that dominates the playlists of people with “authentic” taste.

However, unlike other artists like Smash Mouth, 311 , Taylor Swift and say, Limp Bizkit—that usually don’t roll off the tongue without an obligatory smirk, blush or contextual prologue to proactively defend oneself from embarrassing fandom—Kero Kero Bonito seemed to plow right through that phase. Maybe the trickle-down effects of poptimism are partially responsible, but the trio are now proudly and shamelessly adored by the types of music fans who use the private session function on Spotify out of fear of disapproval from their /mu/-browsing peers. I think that’s really fucking funny and cool, and a hopeful step forward in the deconstruction of the rockist ego.

Last week Bonito surprise-dropped a four song EP that was led by the single “Only Acting,” a lo-fi fuzz-pop track that sounds like Crying during the verses, and a power-pop band like Diet Cig or Martha during the refrain. With garagey drums, a splash of Rozwell Kid-ian guitarwork and an earwormy hook that blissfully jounces into a heightened key change during the song’s final third,  “Only Acting” is on-track to ride out as a straightforwardly excellent pop-rock song. But it doesn’t. It’s suddenly derailed by a vinyl skipping effect that comes to a record-scratching hault, only to return as a mangled and demented husk of what once was serene pop. Deep, ghostly synths hang above a now-uber-compressed mix before the hook returns in what sounds like reverse playback, drowned out by nightmarish industrial screeches that blare until the song finally ceases to exist.

It’s a hilarious troll of an ending that acts as a cheeky wink to the portion of their fanbase that enjoys a bit of aural masochism. Regardless of how unbearably grating the ending actually is, Kero Kero Bonito, of all acts, essentially ruined a perfectly good pop song for the meme. That’s gold.

Eli Enis | @eli_enis

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