Summery, dancy, late 80s pop sensibilities shine through on the album on all of it’s upbeat tracks, but there’s also an air of classic Canadian melancholia that works perfectly with Laj’s rough crooning. “Mister Screaming Attitude”, “Planet of Fun” and “Diamond in the Rough” are anthems for a less miserable existence as we slowly see the sun starting to peek out after an unbearable winter.
The bouncy “Mixing a Drink” is the standout track on this album for me. There are the tiniest hints of aggression in the vocal delivery and it’s juuuust enough to counterpoint the adorable guitar melody. While most of the entries on “Alive and Kicking” are singalong-at-the-top-of-your-lungs tunes, “Mixing a Drink” stands out by not exactly falling into anthemic territory. It begs the listener to internalize the impressive blending of moods on display instead of commanding them to sing along. Laj and the Looks are in absolute top form on this song.
The album leans on the “power” portion of “power pop” in a big way, for better and for worse. While the songs themselves are well-built and catchy as hell, at times the production skewers them. Timing fluctuations (that were, in all honestly, most likely left in on purpose for the sake of keeping the record sounding a little on the raw side) tend to rob big transitions of the oomph they deserve. It’s not enough to ruin anything but it does occasionally leave some wanting.
“Alive and Kicking” might be the best conceived release Dany Laj and the Looks have put out and this is most likely due to the album being self-produced. While this is probably to blame for the aforementioned flaws, it’s also undoubtedly responsible for the myriad highs the album hits both in individual tracks and as a complete, cohesive listening experience.
The Looks are playing the Bovine Sex club tomorrow (March 31st).