How many tracks should your record be? This is a question that comes to mind as I make my way through the sprawling indie folk monstrosity that is Melancholy Kick by Guy Challenger. This album consists of a massive 18 songs, all of them consistently using similar sounds, and many of them undistinguishable from the previous. I’ll admit I had difficulty making my way through the entirety of the record, not because the music was particularly bad, but because there was so much content to absorb. However, determined to press on, I trudged through all of Melancholy Kick, and found that I emerged from its clutches wishing that Mr. Challenger had been a bit more diligent in editing his work.
Although we currently live in a time period where instant musical gratification and singles are the most appealing to the masses, there are still albums being created. Musicians want their work to be consumed as a whole, rather than just a one-time download on iTunes. Yet, there is value in birthing a concise musical statement, rather than one that is epic and unkempt. While listening to Melancholy Kick I found myself constantly checking the track listing to determine how many more songs were left, and oftentimes was unable to determine the transition from one track to the next. Guy Challenger is not a poor musician by any means, but his choice of musical expression is not necessarily new or compelling.
The album begins with “Liquify,” a sort of prologue to what is to come, all softly strummed acoustic guitar and harmonics. Later there is a proper album opener with “MK 1 (Welcome).” Seemingly the MK in the title stands for Melancholy Kick, and its lyrics lead me to suspect that the title refers to a fictional place rather than a dejected flailing of the foot. Challenger intones, “Welcome to Melancholy Kick / Where time is slow and joy exists.” There is almost a suggestion of a concept album with this introduction, perhaps even one with two sections, as track 11 is entitled “MK 2 (Panic).” Thinking that there would be a shift in tone partway through the record I carried on listening, determined to unearth some sort of pleasure from the admittedly already very dull recording.
Yet, save for a change to a more minor and somber key on “Loneliness,” and a pretty decent twang guitar solo on “The Storm” there was no pay off for my listening dedication. Guy Challenger’s songs are all similar, and whereas the record might have been bearable at 10 or 11 tracks, eighteen is simply far too many. If you are interested in acoustic strumming try listening to The Tallest Man on Earth, or perhaps some acoustic Dylan. Melancholy Kick is, unfortunately, not an album I will be revisiting any time soon.