For many musicians, the sophomore slump is all too real. Inspired by the acts who moved you to first pick up your instrument, you grow up dreaming of finally making the masterpiece that gives you your slot on the shelf. But be careful what you wish for. A triumphant first statement also means you’ll always have to compete with your greatest rival—yourself. And, let’s face it, most artists falter in the face of this challenge. Kafka, however, is not among them. Somehow, with his second release, Forgotten People, the formidable singer-songwriter has surpassed his stunning shockingly mature, out-of-nowhere debut Mysterious Skin.
Where as 'Mysterious Skin' shone with echoes of the hook-heavy, melody-rich sounds of the Only Ones, the Buzzcocks, the Pixies, and Guided by Voices, Forgotten People is a different odyssey. One that dives deeper into the pyche of rock and roll, a place where few artists dare to pass, a raw and loose record but an album alive with detail and colour. Think Red Red Meats 'Bunny Gets Paid', Brian Eno 'Harm Come the Warm Jets' and George Harrisons 'Wonderwall Music'. But of course these are merely guides. Despite its wide screen approach Forgotten People still manages to exuberate the classic approach to songwriting such as Neil Young, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello et al.
A detailed and colourful journey it is, with a Dickensian thicket of margin-dwelling characters living lives that are characteristically Kafka-esque (a reference to the deeply personalized storytelling style established with Mysterious Skin as well as that of its maker’s literary namesake). Rougher and yet more cinematic than its predecessor and centering heavily on themes of alienation, Forgotten People features contributions by Mat Arnold (Peter Gabriel, Thomas Dolby, Jay-Z, Kanye West) and Kieron Melling (the Fall) and Clive Dove (In Embrace).
From the bashing junkyard pop of the opener, “Silver Heart” (“The pauper on a string / shouts I’ve got it made”) to the electro-buzz of “Quiet” (“You have never lived/ Until you taste the poverty line”), the abyss-of-addiction-staring “Internal Bleeding” (“The more you use / The more you lose”), and the existential angst of "Deep in the Dark" ("I am the man who does not have a face/Just another name in the database"). Forgotten People is a cathartic collection of snapshots of a Britain in the throes of Brexit’s leadup and immediate aftermath—all, of course, set to tunes that are utterly unforgettable. Textbook Kafka.
Peter Aaron (Crome Cranks, and author of "If You Like The Ramones", "The Band FAQ")