The Kallikak Family
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The Kallikak Family

Band Alternative Folk


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The best kept secret in music


"The Kallikak Family "Vineland Social Maturity Scale" /"

Rating: 4/5

I've been taken by surprise on countless occasions when it comes to listening to a new artist or band. In fact, more often than not, I get so caught off guard that I immediately give praise without a second thought. This approach often sets up our readers for possible disappointment. So recently, I've given more time for albums to soak through my thick-ass cranium, sometimes giving albums months prior to reviewing it. This is the case with The Kallikak Family's The Vineland Social Maturity Scale, a collection of pop-folk recordings filled with psychedelic melodies and haunting minimalism. And as most albums lose their initial enthusiasm, The Kallikak Family continues to impress and astonish after repeated listens.

The Kallikak Family is known as the study in the heredity of feeble-mindedness and was introduced in 1913 by Henry Herbert Goddard at a training school in Vineland, NJ. The Vineland Social Maturity Scale is a parallel to the methods used in the study, showcasing a devoutly corresponding and equivalent measuring in the musical sense. As humans progress in maturity and development, so does The Vineland Social Maturity Scale. The opening track "One Familiar Person" is a simplified, hushed folk ditty that is absolutely compelling. As the album progresses, so does the accompanied instrumentation, as many elements are intertwined with Andrew Peterson's luscious acoustic ballads. And the addition of off-kilter harmonica and drums as interludes keep the progression of the record fresh and invigorating.

Like the Kallikak Family scale of evaluation, The Vineland Social Maturity Scale advances astonishingly with its gorgeous musical creativity and imagination. It's an impressive project marked with all the signs of a positive future. But don't let me tell you that. Pick up a copy and analyze the record yourself. You'll find that The Kallikak Family succeeds at the proverbial journey to maturity.

"The Kallikak Family "Vineland Social Maturity Scale" / Roctober"

A lyrical, spare, fragile, lovely exploration of the historical treatment of mental disease by a one man band that understands the minimalism and appeal of The Mountain Goats but also has a layer of danger beneath everything, obtained as the K Family spent years skirting the edges of the Chicago noise scene. - Roctober

"The Kallikak Family "Vineland Social Maturity Scale" /"

Rating: 9/12

Shrouded in mystery, the Kallikak Family emerge from the shadows with a little indie nugget. Presenting themselves as a band out to confound, they clearly succeed—I will give a nickle to the person who can figure out the title of this record in one minute. (The record sleeve contains references to "Vineland" along with "Vineland Social Maturity Scale"... only after flipping the record over do we discover the band's name.) Attempts to challenge less developed minds continue in the album insert, which includes a scale for listeners to "sample such various activities of social ability." Clever Kallikaks!! Under it all, however, beats a warm left-of-centre indie heart guided by the wand of various members of the family.

Vineland Social Maturity Scale is a pleasant listen with more ideas than your typical release. Seemingly offering a challenge and standing out from the pack, with its abrasive edges and playful experimentation, it however often does not rise from the zone of better than average indie pop.

The comparison to Phil Elvrum of the Microphones, and his philosophy, is perhaps too glaring to mention, and I am sure the Kallikak Family are sick of it already. However, it is a useful one to explain how the former shines while the latter merely glimmers. Elvrum, for one, has an uncanny ability to write touching pop songs, with lyrics revealing insight seldom heard in music. Beautiful pop moments are matched by seething abrasion and the long expanses of calculated orchestration. The Kallikaks, by comparison, do not push the creative envelope quite far enough to rival their hero.

Nevertheless, Vineland Social Maturity Scale is often charming, and clearly contains enough substance to encourage repeated listens. The lyrics will cast some light in the dark corners of your mind, and leave you touched. A few sound tricks, such as buried CD-skips, keep the record interesting and point in a promising direction. A nice little pleasurable listen. -

"The Kallikak Family "Vineland Social Maturity Scale" / Splendid"

Much closer to The Loud Family than The Cowsills, this Chicago household traffics in the sort of lo-fi, childlike, brain-damaged experimentation favored by the Animal Collective. The only difference is that leader Andrew "May 23rd 2007" Peterson has specifically noted that his effort is a concept album about the social progression of mentally retarded children. Not that you'd notice this without a press release; the liner notes, which consist of the titular scale, are as obtuse as most of the music. However, there is a musical progression of sorts. Barely tuneful guitar-and-voice folk (by way of Stephen Malkmus) is eventually enhanced by harmonica, drum machines, a little funk and even some female doo-doo-doos (on "Shopping Mall Sun"). Anything in the way of a catchy melody ("Hands Clenched") is deliberately distanced by distortion, interjections of white noise and barely intelligible vocals. These qualities begin to endure rather than irritate after a few listens, but Peterson's idea of progress seems a little warped; the album eventually (inevitably?) dissolves into chaos. It's supposedly the first part of a trilogy. I hope the next installment retains this one's playful, inventive spirit, and adds a little more coherence. -


*The Kallikak Family "The Vineland Social Maturity Scale" (2004) CD

*Midwest Tour in May 2004. Played with Knife In the Water, The Dirty Projectors, and The Standard; included an appearance at Univ. of Chicago/WHPK's Summer Breeze Festival with Guided By Voices, Jurassic 5, and Medeski Martin & Wood.

*Their song "It's 4 o'clock" will be featured in Losing Today Magazine's upcoming compilation CD (35,000 copies; Distributed in US, Canada, & Europe).

*The "Vineland" album is receiving considerable airplay on college radio stations across the country.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The man behind the Kallikak Family coat of arms is Andrew Peterson, an enigmatic figure with all the markings of a classic artist: a soulful expression, vaporous life, and hazy background. His biography opens in 2001, the year he spent at the University of Chicago Library researching his album’s subject, The Training School at Vineland, NJ - America’s 1st institution for the study of mental disease. Petersen adopted the moniker “May 23rd 2007” and made a name for himself around Chicago. He could be found in Wicker Park bars riffing along with Otis Redding albums, at the Uno-A-Go-Go Festival (where his off-the-wall performance was later televised on cult-favorite, Chic-A-Go-Go), and for a spell as "touring bassist" with The Microphones. Then on May 23rd 2003, Mr. May 23rd 2007 sold all of his possessions and moved to Portland, OR in search of other adventures (field recordings & sound collages, local politics); it's rumored that he and girlfriend M. Ritchey (of Dear Nora) have recently retired to a bungalow in Santa Cruz.