Cult indie-pop legends Kitchens Of Distinction are set to release their back catalogue as part of a special six-CD boxset via One Little Indian on 3rd March 2017, including the first four remastered studio albums, rare b-sides and BBC sessions. Having released their fifth studio album ‘Folly’ in 2013, following their reformation in 2012, the London trio have been pushing boundaries culturally, politically and musically since the ‘80s. Their first singles released on One Little Indian, 1988’s “Prize” and 1989’s “The 3rd Time We Opened the Capsule”, made it onto the “NME Writers’ 100 Best Indie Singles Ever” list in 1992.
The band’s unapologetic and openly homosexual lyrical content, as well as their bold political statements were a driving force, yet would also draw them criticism from the mainstream industry, and many TV and radio shows refused to support them. Against BBC policy, John Peel offered the band a radio session following a memorable performance at Glastonbury. The unforgettable session is included on the brand new reissue boxset. Their allusive, complex lyrics were groundbreaking – vocalist Patrick Fitzgerald sang about life as an unreconciled gay man in a way that was far from in-keeping with the then-trends for gay pop. Their Margaret Thatcher protest song, “Margaret’s Injection” also caused much controversy.
It wasn’t until 1984, when Julian met fellow budding guitarist Patrick at a party in South London, that any of the future KOD members began to take music seriously. “Julian was initially suspicious of me, I think,” Patrick recalls. Yet the pair bonded over post-punk colossi. Bands such as Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen, says Julian, “precluded me from enjoying more accomplished music, I preferred guitarists who weren’t trying to play a million notes a minute like progressive bands did. When we formed Kitchens, we started making music in the vein of The Smiths and Cocteau Twins.”
“I was the one pushing hardest for us to be progressive,” says drummer Dan Goodwin. “Patrick – who always hated Yes, though he liked Genesis! – was more, ‘we should be The Smiths’. In the middle was probably Kitchens Of Distinction.”
KOD’s debut album ‘Love Is Hell’, released in April 1989, drew the band comparisons to The Chameleons, Cocteau Twins and A.R. Kane, and the band’s trailblazing guitar-led melodic sound paved the way for the shoegazing scene of the late ‘80s / early ‘90s.
James Anderton, the chief constable of Greater Manchester who claimed to have a direct line to God, wanted sodomy to be re-criminalised, and declared that homosexuals were, “swirling around in a cesspit of their own making.” Love Is Hell pointedly ended on the lengthy maelstrom of ‘Hammer’ - “I wanted to hammer the point home, that anyone could get AIDS, that it wasn’t a gay disease”, Patrick says. And yet KOD’s album was uplifting as it was dark, enriched by beauty and levity across the music and the words.
Bizarrely, the band often performed under an alter ego – Toilets Of Destruction. They famously appeared in drag at The Bull & Gate in Kentish Town in 1990, playing covers by the likes of Bauhaus, David Bowie and Abba.
The same year, they went into the studio with legendary producer Hugh Jones (Simple Minds, The Undertones, Echo & The Bunnymen) to make their fantastic second album ‘Strange Free World’, released in February 1991. The following year they wrote and recorded their third album ‘The Death of Cool’, again with Hugh Jones in the driving seat. The album, which was named in honour of the passing of Miles Davies, was released in August 1992. KOD’s US label opted for “Smiling” as an introductory single for US audiences, having disagreed with the band’s decision to release “Breathing Fear” initially – a song about “gay bashing”. The label felt that the subject matter was too touchy, yet this was the essence of Kitchens of Distinction, and it separated them from a plethora of bands adopting the shoegaze sound in their wake.
The cult band toured extensively that year, including a high-profile support slot with their US label-mate Suzanne Vega. The trio then released their fourth and final album ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ in 1994 before disbanding in 1996. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood later cited it as inspiration for their trailblazing album OK Computer, and more specifically, the track ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’.