Tuesday, April 30
I first heard King Tuff’s eponymous album, released last year in what is often the best way to discover music – it arrived, to review; I knew nothing about it but given the connection to SubPop Records it went straight to the top of the pile.
And it became a favourite album of last year – rather quickly too. Infectious pop songs stacked one on top of another, all with plenty of rock’s energy, glam influences, hints of plenty of heavy metal listening, traces of barnyard jamming and bedroom-getting-high antics.
But where I can’t get down with the likes of Ariel Pink I heard a lot more in the King Tuff sound.
And so it was – same deal – when seeing the trio live. King Tuff is the stage name of Kyle Thomas (and it’s the name of the band). And as King Tuff Thomas serves up plenty of incongruous things – all slipped in under the door as if (always) some form of indie-pop. So the hipsters rejoice, or at least look happily smug, while all about them King Tuff biffs out mountain-jams and southern-rock boogie as indie-pop, soft-porn glam jams as indie-pop and, well, at one point, I thought I was listening to both Thee Oh Sees and a Sammy Hagar track from the Over The Top soundtrack. But that’s okay, you see I dig Thee Oh Sees and the Over The Top soundtrack. And I got the feeling, clearly, that King Tuff did too.
It was nice, also, to hear someone peel out guitar solos, unashamed, unafraid, no ironic detachment – just set the phaser to, well, phaser I guess – and throw in some back-shed shred.
Yes, there were trucker hats and tank tops and 70s-styled ‘taches – the bass player actually looked like Joe Walsh-as-bottom-feeder-indy-pro-wrestler. But then he quoted The Big Lebowksi during a guitar-string breakage, saying “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles” – mind you, you get the feeling that so did Walsh right up until he joined. No matter what he says now.
If I didn’t know what to expect, music-wise, before I went I might have been ever-so-slightly put off by the band’s look; what is it with these Ariel Pink, Darwin Deez mofos, all crazy get-ups, like they don’t want to pay the late-charges to the costume-hire place after one weekend’s silliness so they just adopt it as costume for their character. But with King Tuff I also kinda believed this was just three dudes wearing what they wore (same kit on/off stage).
What I liked was the way they hit the audience hard – pumped out great tunes even though, sadly, there were fuck all in attendance. They went for it for an hour – and that’s all you need when a band has, ultimately, just the one album. (There’s an earlier King Tuff album but most people that tell you they’ve heard it are lying). There was a new song – so there’s a good chance there’ll be another new album soon too. I hope so. What this guy has is good. And sometimes I’m still not sure what exactly he has. And I like that aspect too.
But he’s one of those bedsit woodshed shredders – like Ween, like Ariel Pink I guess (but I don’t get that guy as being talented; that’s my hang-up I’m sure) and like J Mascis. Thomas plays in a band with Mascis, so there’s something kindred in his off-kilter clash of styles, in his nonchalance, his fuck-it-let’s-jam attitude; his mix of metal, rock, indie and pop.