I will never forget the first time I saw KITTIE, at a tiny little shithole called the Continental Club in New York's East Village. The sheer incompetence of the band — they could barely hold their instruments, let alone play them — was astonishing I couldn't believe that a record label had signed them. I slunk out of the club that night, avoiding the people I knew at that label, because I didn't even know what I could say to them.
Time has gone by and, after three albums, KITTIE has improved. But not by great leaps and bounds. Their new album, "Until The End", suffers from the same basic problem as their first two releases: this is not a good band, period. The women of KITTIE may have finally learned how to play (assuming there's no session musicians involved, as rumors suggested for their earlier releases), but they still don't play well, and they have learned only rudimentary songwriting skills.
I firmly blame the record label. KITTIE was signed as teenagers, and the label clearly saw an opportunity to market some sort of teen girl nu-metal band. The novelty of that helped sell a decent amount of copies of the band's debut, "Spit", but not ever being given the time to develop and season themselves, their indisputable lack of talent was quickly seen through by the listeners and their second album, "Oracle", fell flat on its face. "Until The End" possibly represents a last chance for the quartet (who have realigned their lineup back to an all-female configuration after using a male touring guitarist), but doesn't show any signs that the group is capable of getting past a mediocre level of talent.
Clearly, the band is leaning gradually away from the faux death metal sound of "Spit", injecting more melody into this record, as they did on "Oracle". They mainly accomplish this through singer/guitarist Morgan Lander, who splits her style pretty evenly between her trademark screech and a clear, normal singing voice. But while Lander may possess some rudimentary skills, she does not have the strength or range to make it work. Lander's voice, I'm sad to say, may have a plaintive tone that can be strangely appealing, but she ultimately sounds weak and young no matter how hard she's trying. Her growling voice is not much better, sounding like a tinny, thin version of any number of death metal vocalists.
Having said that, lead single "Into The Darkness" is probably the catchiest tune the band has ever written, and there are a number of decent, heavy riffs sprinkled throughout the record. But the bulk of the songs are jumbled and indistinguishable from each other, bleeding into a murk of generic metal that Lander's clear vocals occasionally pierce like a faint cry for help. The newer players in the band — guitarist Lisa Marx and bassist Jennifer Arroyo — seem merely like hired hands, since Morgan writes all the songs.
I don't doubt the sincerity of the members of KITTIE, as they approach their music with whatever intensity they can muster. But this is a band that should never have been signed, certainly not at the time they were. The fact that we're still listening to them develop into something approaching professionalism after three albums proves what a misguided effort this was from the beginning. If KITTIE had been given time to grow before being cynically shoved into the marketplace, they might have been taken seriously as women and musicians. But "Until The End" — an ominous title — does little to help their cause.