Throughout the '90's, London-based college rock/shoegaze trio Kitchens of Distinction made four full-length albums, rallying a large cult following but mostly existing in the shadows of other like-minded, more successful bands. Drawing on the ethereal dreaminess of the early 4AD catalog and both the melodrama and pop flair of goth-tinged indie acts like Echo & the Bunnymen or Siouxsie and the Banshees, KoD created a sound marked by tightly wound rhythms, swirling processed guitar, and singer/bassist Patrick Fitzgerald's emotionally naked lyrics. The band officially called it a day in 1996, fizzling out more than imploding, and leaving behind an obscure catalog of work whose sounds would be reflected years later by indie acts like British Sea Power or Interpol. Folly, the band's first record in 19 years, appeared with as little pomp as when they'd disappeared so many years before. The ten tracks here formed slowly over the course of a two-year writing and recording period at Fitzgerald's home studio. Though all the members of the band had stayed active in some form of music, the collaborative element of the three original bandmembers in a reunited form allows for their sound to pick up almost exactly where it left off, channeling all the wistful energy of their early-' 90s days. This is especially apparent on the album's more melodic tunes that lean on a nostalgia for the 120 Minutes era of independent music. "Japan to Jupiter" coasts on a gloriously '90's chord progression that calls to mind Suede's melancholic glamminess or even solo work by Morrissey immediately following the Smiths' disbandment. Likewise, the upbeat "I Wish It Would Snow" matches guitarist Julian Swales' heavily processed guitar tones with the wintery catchiness of the Psychedelic Furs, A.R. Kane, or the Church, re-creating the hazy early-'90s feelings of the times when KoD were last making records. Of course, the bandmembers aren't bright-eyed college kids anymore, and there's an updated subtlety to much of the material. The patient album-opener "Oak Tree" or the eerie, dissonant "No Longer Elastic" look at memory, personal history, and the aging process with a slow, thoughtful approach, creating space for the more immediately catchy songs. For a band not to change much in almost 20 years is a welcome thing in the case of Folly. Instead of a needless reunion, these songs present the return of a quietly influential and always ahead-of-their-time band, back to do what made them valuable in the first place. There's an element of nostalgia for times that are long gone, but with songs this strong, it almost feels like a necessary self-referencing for anyone who missed the band the first time around.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas