Kerosec’s “On the Verge of Intelligence”: Smart neo-grunge and homegrown storytelling


Kerosec is a neo-grunge band from Fort Wayne, Ind. This year marks the band’s third year of existence, and the release of their first full-length album, “On the Verge of Intelligence.” The songs are deceptively smart– hidden in super heavy melodic guitar riffs and ominous drums are stories about growing up and narratives about infamous Hoosiers– that create an Indiana gothic soundtrack that only natives could create.

Kerosec and Fort Wayne’s live music scene

Kerosec is a relatively new band, so my knowledge of Fort Wayne’s live music scene predates it by several years. Since the late 1990s, the quality and diversity of original bands in Fort Wayne has increased. With Kerosec, the trend appears to continue.

Situated firmly in flyover country, Fort Wayne is 150 miles east of Chicago, and roughly 110 miles north of Indianapolis. The area’s history and proximity to other places gives Fort Wayne a rich cultural pool to derive from. The esoteric experiences and knowledge of performers adds to the diversity and shouldn’t be discounted.

There are live bands in Fort Wayne performing every week. They represent almost every genre–hip-hop, jazz, rock, metal, alternative and country. In every group there are talented individuals. Punk and alternative bands seem to do well in Fort Wayne. With numerous places to play and an almost built-in audience, bands like The Migraines, Freak Magnet, Frog Hollow, and The Sugar-Frosted Bishops gave a soundtrack to Fort Wayne’s sense of place.

Those times have passed. Some of those band members are on to other projects, and telling their new rock and roll stories. However, there is something about Kerosec that makes them different.

Kerosec and Hoosier gothic narratives

Bands write about the landmarks and characters of big cities all the time. Kerosec, however, brings this kind of name-dropping to a grassroots level. It does not shy away from the unsavory side of life in northeastern Indiana. Their standout tracks refer unabashedly to the interstate with the unfortunate name, a woman whose murderous spree targeted her children and one other person, the presence of meth labs, and diners where the under-21 crowd sit and write poetry. Or something resembling it.

“The Diner”

Compared to other songs on the album, this one is practically sweet. The basic sound is a heavy sweep of guitar that is not without its rhythmic turns. It might remind some listeners of Matthew Sweet’s work in the 1990s. The vocals are layered, or there is a slight echo, and the effect makes the song easy to remember. The narrative is a recollection of youthful exploits at a diner. Maybe Fort Wayne isn’t unique in this way, but it seems as if ever since there were live bands that played late on weekends, and 24-hour dining establishments, there were young people sitting in such places indulging their youthfulness.

“Capt. Buckfunny”

From the near-whimsy of a Midwestern youth, to the dark and seedy truth of Indiana as seen in news bites. Listeners are invited to listen. Landmarks like I-69 are mentioned, methlabs, and a young woman’s murder spree, dot the Hoosier gothic world Kerosec creates here.

Fittingly, the sound is heavy, and the descriptor of “neo-grunge” fits best with songs like this one. Other songs that bear the adjective well are “Sometimes” and “5 Body Blade.” The sound reminds me of what would happen if “Freak on a Leash”-era Korn, blended sounds with early Soundgarden. Wrap that around a troubling narrative about a young man and his mother’s admonishment. That’s really all I can write here.

The sound is contemporary grunge at its finest. It sounds like the music version of novels like “Generation X,” by Douglas Coupland, books by Chuck Klosterman, and the work of Steve Almond. I almost wish there was a narrative component to this.

Kerosec’s “On the Verge of Intelligence” is homegrown neo-grunge with hard rock appeal. The lyrics are smart enough to pull in the most discerning audiences, but easy enough that no fan is left behind. Kerosec doesn’t only write songs about Hoosier scandals; the band does take on the world and its problematic quirks. Kerosec has a web presence that allows perspective fans to check them out before going to see them at the Brass Rail or other downtown haunt. I recommend viewing their work on YouTube, and spending some time on their website. You won’t be disappointed.










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