Music Reviews
Cooler Returns

Kiwi Jr. Cooler Returns

(Sub Pop) Rating - 7/10

Toronto’s Kiwi Jr. don’t just wear their influences on their sleeves; they’ve got them screen printed on their t-shirts. Pavement comparisons were in abundance for their 2019 debut, Football Money, and here on their sophomore effort, Cooler Returns, the band doesn’t shrink from that. The Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain references are front and center on the opening Tyler, as band leader Jeremy Gaudet regales of backstage shenanigans: “I was falling apart in the green room, while you drank half the headliner’s rider.” And the later, Only Here For a Haircut, references, well, a haircut. Do you think that’s going to make them change? Apparently not, but Cooler Returns makes for a blast of a listen nonetheless.

With thirteen tracks clocking in at under forty minutes, the individual songs’ brief running times belie what the group is able to do with them. The aforementioned Haircut is bracing and bounding but makes room for piano and harmonica fills to go with an anthemic bridge. One of the shortest songs here, Domino, unfolds as a sweetly crooned pogo-inducing ditty and it pairs well with the two-tone inspired Undecided Voters. Other songs take their time to develop like the Elton John fronting the E Street Band basher Norma Jean’s Jacket. Gaudet’s sardonic couplets fall furiously and nearly all of them hit—Omaha’s “taking off the oven mitt, looking for the hot hand” being a rare exception.

Cooler Returns plays out best if you go with its flow. Musical flourishes, references, and inspirations abound, but if you let yourself get lost in it, there is a lot to enjoy and not too much to worry about. Gaudet’s lyrics are as tightly packed in as the list of predecessors and genres their melodies pull from. It's a subcompact London Calling for those that don’t have the time or inclination to save the world.