Album Review: Kids On A Crime Spree – Fall In Love Not In Line

[Slumberland; 2022]

Listeners might be forgiven if Bay Area trio Kids On A Crime Spree slipped away from their memories. While the band released a series of spry, to-the-point singles back in 2013, 2016, and 2017, they have largely been left at the back of people’s minds, their 2011 debut album We Love You So Bad falling further into the distance with each year. Just over a decade later the band have finally returned with their body of work since that debut.

It might be another brief outing (10 songs in 24 minutes), and they might be consciously leaning away from the lo-fi 60s surf rock inspired sound that informed and influenced We Love You So Bad, but their new album, Fall In Love Not in Line, might just be enough to have the band stick in the back of people’s mind for a little while longer.

Things don’t get off to the strongest start though. “Karl Kardel Building” has screeching fuzz and feedback to boast, but it’s not quite the explosive or delightful comeback that fans might have hoped for. While it might lack a gunpowder-fuelled burst, it does have a upbeat pop to it; like many of the lesser tracks here, it would suffice as a single to tide you over until the next Kids On A Crime Spree moment, but, collected together, the middling numbers form into a beige series of lo-fi garage pop tracks that fall into the background.

Thankfully there are sparks of excitement and infectious dynamism. “When Can I See You Again?” has that wide-eyed teenage worldview, lead singer/bassist Mario Hernandez yearning, “When can I see you before our world ends?” Even in an apocalypse, infatuation comes first, and when Hernandez leans into this (like on the flustered “Boomdoom”), it plays to the band’s strengths.

Elsewhere, the other members’ heavy lifting shines. “All Things Fade” stands out in the middle of the album, a rupture of white light energy, Bill Evans’ guitars speeding, and the percussion slapping alongside the bass. The trio even allow themselves a moment for a scuzzy solo that only adds to the fire of the track. Following song “Goods Get Got” has a similar moment of vim amid the indie stomp and chants of “hey hey hey!”, the band doubling down on a kinetic moment and the track coming to life. Drummer Becky Barron seems primarily responsible for moments like these across the album, her presence something of an understated highlight; her frenetic fills and drive are an undeniable force.

If the band could capture this thrilling energy on even a few more tracks on Fall In Love then it would brand itself into memory all the better. Instead, the dull surrounding moments help songs like “All Things Fade” shine that more. “Overtaken By Soil” might boast handclaps aplenty, but the feedback becomes a deterrent, like the sound of a rusty, swinging shop sign playing over the music. “Vital Points” might offer up some bright, poppy skipping guitar rhythms, and closing track “We’re So Good” might try to marry that largely left-behind surf rock with a downbeat aura, but they are missing a vitality that made the band turn heads when they first appeared on the scene. 

Against Hernandez’s washed out lyrics and forgettable presence, the joyous elements fade out of view. Clumped together it’s hard to find much to say about many of the tracks here. After so long away, it feels like the stronger songs would have served better as the occasional single to whet our appetite – instead, we have this album that doesn’t capture the memory of what was loved about the band in the first place.