Following 2019's Civilisation I, the London-based pop trio Kero Kero Bonito return with the EP's sequel, which is a much stronger effort by leaps and bounds and highlights the band getting better.
After the surprise left-turn on 2018's Time 'n' Place, Kero Kero Bonito's musical pathways became freewheeling completely open. The strict, bubblegum pop hooks and themes from the their debut Bonito Generation were replaced by jagged and warped guitars and twee stylings that always felt the verge of melting down, while still keeping their eyes on catchy music—see "Only Acting." Comprising of frontwoman Sarah Bonito and multi-instrumentalists Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled, KKB nailed both of these different sounds, leaving everyone wondering where they would go next. Since that brilliant sophomore effort, the trio have yet to release a proper follow-up, but in 2019, they presented the first in a series of EPs called Civilisation I. The three tracks that made up the first Civilisation EP are pleasant dives into a sort of middle ground of the trio's style. The guitars are mostly replaced with an abundance of electronics—a return to their bubblegum and electropop style. The apocalyptic themes from Time 'n' Place carried over to this EP, but instead focused on civilization collapsing and the world rapidly changing.
KKB's latest and second EP in the series, Civilization II, blows the first EP out of the water with three of their best tracks period. It signals a new era for the band, one that acknowledges the depressing times we live in, while managing to carry an uplifting and optimistic tone.
Like the previous release, the three-track EP Civilisation II, was recorded in Lobban's bedroom and the intimacy that EP had carries over here in spades. Opening with the lead single "The Princess and the Clock," the track is a masterful display of catchiness with a glitchy and synth-smeared atmosphere. The lyrics seem to detail a story of a princess who never leaves her room, remaining eternally a child. It alludes to themes of growing up, while also tapping into the isolation that continues to impact millions of people during this pandemic, especially young adults. These melancholy lyrical themes are complemented beautifully by the instrumental, which chugs along with its indietronica lens before transforming into a cathartic piece of electropop.
From here, the song moves into the EP's weakest track "21/4/20"—a sweet indie pop track with comfy, warm synths and a great vocal melody from Bonito. It's hard to even call this track the weakest, as its short runtime and bubbly mood helps it stand up to some of the best songs on either of their albums. It could have fit as a snug highlight on Time 'n' Place with a bit of tweaking to make it slightly darker. Lyrically, it isn't exactly cheery, but its an attempt to be uplifting with Bonito detailing her daily routine during the beginning days of the pandemic. In a way, its a realistic document of what these times are like amidst the pandemic, especially the first few weeks of lockdown.
Even though the EP starts on such a high note, it still manages to peak in quality with the superb seven-minute closer "Well Rested." The track is a headfirst and silky dive into indietronica and acid house, which builds up one of KKB's most hypnotic grooves. Layers of striking beats build up before Bonito comes in with the EP's brightest lyrics. Lyrically, the track deals with people speaking and claiming "the end times," but KKB disagrees—"We have survived a hundred apocalypses / A family / Doomsday hasn't come yet / You cannot stop civilisation."
There isn't exactly a weak moment throughout this EP. It definitely feels slight with its short 14-minute runtime, but it's a well-crafted experience that leaves the listener wanting more in the best way. Hopefully another EP for the series is on its way as KKB have demonstrated once again they're still at the top of their game.
Highlights — "The Princess and the Clock" & "Well Rested"
Civilisation II is available now. Stream the new EP below.