On the cover of Kirby Krackle’s first, self-titled CD the main duo were depicted by Jim Mahfood as two standard-mortal nerds surrounded by a maelstrom of their toys, comic heroes and audio gear. The cover of their second, E for Everyone, catches them in mid-mutation, with Kyle Stevens’ guitar seemingly remade from green-lantern energy (or maybe just empowered with dayglo spraypaint) and Jim Demonakos’ drumsticks clasped between his knuckles like Wolverine claws. Fanboys and girls can fall into fantasy lives they don’t come back from, but KK do an elegant dance-fight on the lip of the nuclear reactor, alternating between songs that are soundtracks for games and comics, and songs about how games and comics become the soundtracks of superfans’ lives.
The genre-crossover soundscape of the first disk is resolved a bit here into an urgent, tuneful metallic pop, with skillful frat-funk leanings and a great catalogue of squealing spaceship-dashboard guitar settings. Lead singer Stevens brings both a solid sense of humor and a real sense of passionate yearning to songs about nerdboys’ unrequited obsessions, both disclaiming and redeeming the crunch-ballad overemoting that owns much of what’s left of the radio dial. (And co-songwriter Demonakos is alter-egoing from two of his dayjobs as Seattle con organizer and pood-positive comic retailer -- payback is a breeze, my brutha.)
Readymade stock characters cosmically morph into well-observed types (like the office-drone double-lifer who exults, “Secret identity/No HR harassing me”), and the more readily recognizable speakers (like Wolverine in “On and On”) make slips which tell us lots more than what issue they got the brown costume in -- “I always heal/But I never stop hurting” is the kind of insight that could save somebody weeks of anger-management class fees.
“Great Lakes Avengers” overflows with in-joke namechecks for fans of offbrand superteams, while its tale of a wannabe roster-crasher has a serious laugh at the mania to “break in” to some idealized life rather than break out of the ruts in your own. On the other side of the street, “Henchman”’s farcical job-search pitch takes on topical recessionary overtones with the timing of a well-planned particle-beam theft.
“Can I Watch You?” is the grooviest guest spot for Uatu this side of Junot Díaz, and KK’s freak flag flies over a wide territory of comics’ communities and alternate-universe lifestyles: “With pretty girls/and dudes in capes/Going to cons is our escape.” My dream team-up is for Kirby Krackle and the re-formed DEVO to face off against the best karaoke skills the Big Bang Theory cast can muster in a Very Special Episode. But it’s better not to laugh too hard. This band knows that, whether you’re a tenuously-existent fictional character or a barely-noticed social misfit, there’s gotta be someone to take you seriously.