Bret McKenzie is a creative slut, and I do mean that in the nicest possible way. As if playing keyboards in the Black Seeds, strumming the guitar in comedy duo Flight of the Concords and having a bit part in the Lord of the Rings trilogy wasn’t enough, we are now affably presented with Bret’s debut solo project. And it comes packaged smoothly under his suitable moniker, the Video Kid.
The guy is a gifted musician who certainly gets around and it seems that all the tastes and technologies he knows are brought to the table for this album. If it isn’t the dub groove of ‘Runnin Dub’ then it’s certainly ‘CCTV’ which boasts a funky 80s groove and maybe, just maybe, the very subtle satire of a George Michael vocal. Opening track ‘Video Kid’ is mellow, and acoustic guitar and electronic phasing wash lightly through my stereo. The song would almost be fitting as the last track on the album if it weren’t for the chorus that introduces the Video Kid himself, ‘here comes the video kid / he’s coming to take this song.’
Don’t be fooled though, this track is by no means an indication of what lies ahead. Prototype is nothing but eclectic, ‘DJZ Girlfriend’ enlists the help of a vocoder and ‘Let It Go’ with its Fishbone-esque retro bass line and handclaps make for a funky cocktail.
Familiar names appear in the credits as they do in many a Wellington release. In fact, these days you could be forgiven for thinking an album wasn’t from Wellington if it didn’t include members of the Black Seeds and Trinity Roots. Having said that, the guest list on Prototype ensures a certain level of quality. My only concern is that this album is merely, as it often sounds like, the side project of a clever musician with little artistic direction or seriousness in this case. Is Bret having a laugh? Does he just love many types of music? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good album, but it I would be kidding if I said it was great.