Kayak – Seventeen 01I consider myself fairly well-versed on the subject of 70s prog. I’ve got scores of albums by dozens of bands, and what I don’t have I can usually recognize. So when something comes around that I haven’t heard of (like last year’s Sea Goat record), it’s gotta be for a good reason — like the band not recording anything, or sucking. So here we are with Dutch outfit Kayak, probably spelled backward, and their latest album Seventeen, which I have found out has nothing to do with Kip Winger strutting around partially clothed. If a band has been around since 1972, and have sixteen albums under their belts, why hasn’t the venerable Huckster heard of them? Well, in the spirit of community service, here I am listening to olde prog from an olde band, to figure out why exactly they have paddled under my radar.

A quick 30-second primer on Kayak: this five-piece has been around since 1972, although they split between 1981-1999, during which keyboard player/founding member/sole original member Ton Scherpenzeel played with Camel. Bass player Kristoffer Gildenlow spent some time with Pain of Salvation, and drummer Collin Leijenaar has worked with Neal Morse, so there’re some prog creds sprinkled in. The band describes themselves as prog with pop sensibilities, meaning shorter songs with less wankery than the genre prefers. That could be tasty like Steven Wilson’s last effort, or lousy like nearly everything Supertramp ever did. Sadly, as I found out, it’s much more of the latter.

There’s a lot of major key upbeat material here, which I don’t fundamentally have an issue with if the songs are actually engaging. But Seventeen is a twelve-song, sixty-minute disk, and eight of those songs are schmaltzy pop tunes clocking in at three minutes apiece. None of them are interesting. In fact, I could cut two fingers off my right hand and still use it to count the number of gripping moments the band provides: the two long songs, “La Peregrina” and “Walk Through Fire,” while not outstanding, have sweet arrangements that allow the band to release a bit of pent-up aggression the shorter songs do not. On the third-longest song, “Cracks,” Marcel Singor lays out a couple of guitar solos that stand up to any other band. Outside of those moments, though, the material is forgettable – even the fiddle-and-oompah of “God on our Side.”

Kayak – Seventeen 02

I don’t talk a lot about lyrics in my reviews: I find most lyrics to be merely average, of course with exceptions in both directions. But on this album, Kayak’s lyrics are often painfully bland. Check out this line from “X Marks the Spot:” “X marks the spot, it could be anywhere, just not where you thought that it would be.” Um, okay. And that’s the gist of the album’s lyrical skill. Luckily, the performances and production are the exact opposite: as one would expect from a record released by InsideOut, the mix is stellar, lively, and balanced, and despite the poor songwriting the band are excellent musicians. The video below is a perfect example: a mix of vanilla songwriting and chord progressions mixed in with some teasingly good work, although this is a six-minute edit of the original twelve-minute cut.

I can safely say that, having only heard of Kayak recently, I haven’t missed out on anything. What it all boils down to is the lack of strong songs. Seventeen sounds great, the band plays fantastically, and Bart Schwermann is a solid singer, but the material he has to work with is for the most part boring. A lot more of the adventurousness of “Walk Through Fire” and a lot less of the more-tedious-than-Supertramp “Love, Sail Away” and we’d have ourselves a winner. Instead, we’ve gotten 2018 off to a progressively weak start.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: InsideOut
Websites: kayakonline.info | facebook.com/kayakmusicband
Releases Worldwide: January 12th, 2018

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  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    NO.

  • Wes Allen

    The X can’t be anywhere if it can’t be where you thought it would be. Get it together, Kayak.

    • Excentric_13073

      My eyes legit watered when I read that line. I hate dumb lyrics.

  • Septic

    Good Lord. They disbanded when I was born and got back together when I graduated high school.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      They didn’t want to distract you through your schooling years.

  • The embedded song didn’t grab me but it certainly wasn’t bad. The problem is, it also doesn’t give me any reason to listen to the album.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Exactly. And that’s the second best song on the album, so there you go.

  • Maximos662

    The production is fantastic, and the musicianship is superb, but the material is just meh. I could see giving this a 2.5 on the strength of the former factors, but, yeah, I’m kinda disappointed.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Their name is a palindrome.
    That’s the most exciting thing happening here.

    • Tofu muncher

      dammit i’m mad

      • ToddRob64

        Madam I’m Adam

  • HeavyMetalHamster
  • Thë Brycërøy

    “Probably spelled backward” *stands and applauds*

  • foreverAlfon

    man im a prog-rock/metal bitch and i sooo wanted this to be awesome. Good job, Huck N Roll, you ruined my day.

  • An attack on supertramp is an attack on us all! En garde!

  • FerrusWheel

    I actually kayak as a hobby… were you aware that “huck” means to paddle off a waterfall when you gave Huck this to review?

    • Huck N’ Roll

      I didn’t know you could huck a kayak, I’ve used the term in mountain biking, thus Huck N Roll. :) +1 to you!

      • FerrusWheel

        That’s probably where the Murican boaters got it from then. I’m still trying to work out why they also use “send it.”

    • sir_c

      but like the band name, can you do it backwards too?

  • Innit Bartender

    Yo Huck, you know you have it coming when you badmouth Supertramp!
    ;-P
    Just kidding, I think they’re ok.
    I considered myself a prog conisseur like you but never knew about these guys. Probably Mikael Akerfeldt has their complete discography on vinyl.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Supertramp = most boring band in the world prior to Coldplay.

      • Innit Bartender

        C’mon, no band in the world is more boring than Coldplay!!

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          I’m struggling to think of anything more boring than Coldplay.

          • Huck N’ Roll

            You can’t. That’s why they usurped the position from Supertramp, who were previously the most boring. I have spoken.

          • GrumpDumpus

            MATCHBOX 20

          • sir_c

            Snow patrol is a good contender. Their music is like a vast tundra full of snow

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            TAKE THAT BACK!!!
            Don’t you tar vast tundras of snow with those brushes!

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Obviously you’re a terrible person

        • Huck N’ Roll

          I’m not here to make friends.

      • This is hands down the most unduly harsh damning of a band I’ve ever read here, where is the Ban Hammer?

    • I actually am fond of Supertramp myself. That might be because my mom listened to them while doing the dishes when I was a kid. That’s also how I got into Yes and the like, so it’s not a complaint.

  • MightyK716

    I very much enjoyed this band from it’s inception thru their 4th or 5th release (then punk, post/punk happened). I’ll always have a soft spot in my ear for bands of this era, especially those that continue to produce and maintain (or at least attempt to). I had read in the fall that this release was in the pipeline and was anxious to see what would be on offer. Not surprisingly, this track leaves me disappointed. Exemplifies, once again, that the 70’s cannot be recaptured, even by 70’s artists. If one has a real desire to get into Kayak, check their output from the heydays (which I guess only I and foreverAlfon can speak to). Even the reviewer of this release who considers “himself fairly well-versed on the subject of 70s prog” cannot.

    • Huck N’ Roll

      Do you have a favourite?

      • Tofu muncher

        their first six albums are great imo.

      • David Miller

        Some of their stuff I like, some I don’t but I’ve always really liked the album Royal Bed Bouncer…quite a few tracks on that really stand out, particularly “Chance for a lifetime” and “If this is your welcome”

    • Tofu muncher

      I quite like this album (an easy 3.0-3.5 for me). The longer 10+ minutes tracks–La Peregrine and Walk through Fire–are enjoyable and can keep me interested throughout, and the hooks are still there.

  • Flämmer

    I kind of like this, judging by the embedded track, at least. It’s some decent mellow shit with which to listen to my headphones after a long day at the office.

  • Thatguy

    The dreaded Flying V band photo – rarely ends well.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      And they get it all wrong!
      You always need your bald guy at the point of the V for aerodynamics.
      And, never ever be the guy wearing a hat in a Flying V.
      This is all day one stuff of band photo school!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      And here I am thinking: “I didn’t see any Flying V (guitar) in that photo”

  • Tofu muncher

    Ruthless Queen and Starlight Dancer hummers (while doing practically anything) the world over curse you.

  • Shirley Knott

    Don’t get it – ylbaborp is probably spelt backwards… (i do geddit and I’m standing with Thë Brycërøy )

    (I quite like the album)