Rent Control Bids Farewell to the Way Things Were, Rock-Opera Style
“You had a life that you loved for so long.
You had a life that loved and now it’s gone.”
So ends “Gone Songs,” the first track on Rent Control, a solo, concept album by singer, guitarist, sound engineer and long-time San Francisco resident, J. Kick. That startling sense of loss is shared by many in the city these days, but it takes on a less anguished and more dreamy, philosophical quality in Kick’s interpretation. The album was inspired by his move from the Mission to Oakland, and is a reflection of both his time in SF and the way the city has changed. Some of the songs are sharply reminiscent and deeply personal; some tell a collective story with lyrics so simple and honest they might have been capture off a Mission street corner. Kick’s grim and uncomfortable truth exists in contrast to a strong and textured sound with an almost surf-rock quality in songs like “In Jet,” which begins:
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“I moved here seven years ago.
Back then, I got what I paid for.
I’d meet artists everyday.
That’s just the city I came for.
Then for years, I closed my eyes.
It must have been just a little too long.
One day I walked out my door.
Everything I knew was gone. “
He calls the album “a rock opera about one era of the Mission ending, and realize that one era of your life is also ending.” Although the lyrics are at times stark, the songs themselves hint at finding acceptance in the process of change and evolution. It captures both the difficulty and the creativity inherent in SF’s identity, with each song featuring a different line-up of guest Bay Area musicians. Rather than have just one record release show at a bigger venue, Kick put together a band, also called Rent Control, to play four shows at smaller venues over the course of a month. So far, the band has played at Hemlock, the Knockout and Amnesia.
The album is available to stream or purchase on Bandcamp, (the price is, perhaps ironically set at $99 with a sidebar caption reading, “prices have really gone up”) but the band is deliberately a one-month-only project.” Kick, who wrote all the songs on Rent Control in 2013 also says that the limited time period serves to close the book on that period of his life and usher in the next era, mirroring the transitional theme that anchors the album. It also, he notes, follows ‘the theme of paying the rent, like a slice of a life divided into monthly snapshots, this month just representing one of those.”
Fittingly, the final show in Rent Control’s four-show run will be in Oakland at Night Light, on Wednesday, November 26th. This isn’t your last chance to see Kick, who says he’ll be assembling another, more permanent band soon, but it is your last chance to see this living, breathing, musical embodiment of a very strange and transitional time for the city.
Although Kick hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of extending Rent Control’s run. “Maybe if someone asked us to play a massive anti-gentrification demonstration, we’d consider it.”