K's Choice

Tuesday, Aug. 17; Mississippi Nights

Aug 11, 1999 at 4:00 am
Will the real K's Choice please stand up? It's not as though this Belgian group wears stylistic disguises, but their moodiness takes the listener on an enveloping tour of extremes. Still, you'll never mistake K's Choice for the sort of band that manufactures angst right in its own (suburban) backyard.

Led by siblings Sarah and Gert Bettens, K's Choice are so confessional you want to hand them your jacket to shroud their lyrical nakedness. The brutal honesty, which is not sweetened but actually enhanced by pretty melodies, makes Annie Lennox sound like Martha Stewart. K's Choice house their candor in some of the loveliest arrangements you'll hear in this outward-looking era, where insularity is considered insolent. A girlie swirl of balmy harmonies (think of Sheryl Crow, doubled and tripled) and a terse weave of acoustic and electric guitars does the trick nicely on songs like "If You're Not Scared" (from Cocoon Crash). In their several years together, K's Choice have evoked a lot of things — the New Zealand Flying Nun sound, folk-rock, power pop — but, again, their identity comes less from a compendium of reference points than from their own reflective center.

Only K's Choice could write a song called "I Smoke a Lot" (from The Great Subconscious Club; also an early single) — on the surface a dark canticle of "can't quit" — and make it sound like Crowded House sitting around a campfire. You'd expect the track to be a throwaway, but K's Choice unroll the title down to the frustration inside. Instead of using the song as a catharsis — or, perish the thought, a sermon of some kind — they simply relate the enslavement of living in a nicotine rut. It's enough to make you hold up your lighter.