Music reviews: King Tuff, The Rentals, Spiders
Black Moon Spell
Whether or not rock & roll is serious business for King Tuff (aka Kyle Thomas), he’s managed to fare rather well for a guy who’s had the kind minimal to moderate exposure he’s received in the past. His last record, which was self-titled, even managed to nudge Jack White out of the number two spot in the CMJ charts. This year, however, his fourth, and brand new album, ‘Black Moon Spell’, has debuted at the very top of Billboard’s Heatseeker chart; in case of any confusion, that means it hit the number one slot.
King Tuff’s scruffy street rock & roller appearance and his tongue-in-cheek approach make him an instantly loveable character. His vocal deliverance is something akin to Richard O’Brien’s performance on “Science Fiction, Double Feature”, which makes for a very characteristic juxtaposition against the music, essentially the album through. There’s a kind of ‘bubblegum’ quality that carries the album, especially where the choruses are concerned. There is indeed an unrefined and largely stripped down quality to the music on ‘Black Moon Spell’, especially when you take songs like the title track and “Headbanger” into concern. He has an inadvertent way of making subtle creative use out of the negative sonic space, which contributes largely to the overall rawness and undisciplined nature of the music.
The imagery used for the artwork for ‘Black Moon Spell’ has a kind of ‘cutesy’ quality about it. That’s a feature that plays really well against the actual sonic content provided on this insane creature of a good album. The blend of balls-out rock & roll and tiny hints metal makes this a rock record to be reckoned with. The music has a feeling all of its own, and while it’s not necessarily the deepest material ever committed to a recording, lyrically speaking, it’s a goddamn enjoyable record that keeps the feet tapping and the head bobbing. ‘Black Moon Spell’ is surely one of those albums that plays wonderfully in any capacity, but it wouldn’t hurt to turn it up to ten either; or eleven if you can. ‘Black Moon Spell’ doesn’t get old, so keep this album close by, because it’s definitely one to put on from time to time and listen to over and over again.
Lost In Alphaville
Back in the mid-90s, the Rentals was a band that was conceived after bassist Matt Sharp’s exit from his previous band, Weezer. The year 2014 sees the Rentals back with their third new full-length album. Even though ‘Lost In Alphaville’ is ‘officially’ the band’s new studio album since 1999’s Seven More Minutes’, those familiar with the ‘Songs About Time’ venture the Rentals assembled over the past few years will see ten familiar song titles. Looking at this album from that perspective, ‘Lost In Alphaville’ essentially appears to be an album’s worth of choice cuts that have been culled from that project. With that out of the way, ‘Lost In Alphaville’ is a great album that has been intelligently crafted.
The tracks taken from those previous sessions are given new life via newer musical points of view that add new perspective, thereby refining and garnering some fresh, effective, and creative enhancements. Since the passing of years the years, these added components certainly serve to improve much of the material. The material on ‘Lost In Alphaville’ has a more refined, bolstered strength giving the songs new substance. There is musical maturity that has fostered some natural growth. The elevated sense of taste and the finesse employed in the processing creates diverse personalities and characterizations within the songs on the album.
‘Lost In Alphaville’ bleeds with melodies created by filtered electronics and stretched synth-lines. Those elements give each track the tracks individuality. Every song has its own way of lingering in the mind, long after the album has ended. Points like “Stardust, “1000 Seasons, “Thought Of Sound”, and “Song Of Remembering” remind you why the Rentals are such a memorable group who effortlessly produces catchy, alluring melodies and lingering choruses. While “Damaris” has more serious sounding musical undertones, “Seven Years” is something of a Rentals’ take on a good rock song with a lighter mood.
Because this album is essentially comprised of re-recorded material seemingly guided by 20/20 hindsight, it’s prudent to note the fresh additions to the personnel line-up for ‘Lost In Alphaville’. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, of New York’s Lucius lend their vocal talents. While their approach might seem a bit understated, make no mistake, it could be debated that Wolfe and Laessig’s presence on ‘Lost In Alphaville’ make all of the difference in the world when it comes to their gentle vocal deliveries and near perfect indelible vocal harmonies. This particular alliance adds so much texturing to the songs that, without them, this would be a completely different album. Also making a guest appearance on ‘Lost In Alphaville’ Black Keys’ drummer, Patrick Carney, who supplies his personal style and creates the strong supportive backbone that carries and drives the whole album. Regardless of any previous affiliation these songs have with past projects, ‘Lost In Alphaville’ stands on its own merits as a truly great. Or even a step further, the Rentals’ absolute best album yet.
In 2012, the Swedish rock & roll force, known as Spiders, releases ‘Flashpoint’, which showed a profound appreciation for the music created decades prior. The kind of material that was as much attitude and defiance, as it was chords, rhythms, and proper structures. With their sophomore effort, entitled ‘Shake Electric’, this no-frills rock& roll outfit has taken what they started with ‘Flashpoint’, and pushed every element of their being and produced an album that embodies as much true heart as it does genuine authenticity.
Before, with ‘Flashpoint’, Spiders displayed much of the primal essence gleaned from the likes of early American staples like the Stooges, the MC5, the early New York punk rock scene. Their performances of the ‘Shake Electric’ material retain that early raw, primal energy and hunger, while clearly exhibiting a natural maturity that flows effortlessly. ‘Shake Electric’ demonstrates a perfectly seamless progression, which is always an absolute essential for bands and artists with true authenticity.
The presence of growth in the music Spiders has produced for ‘Shake Electric’ is immediately evident. They’ve retained the energy and force that was generated with their first release, but added elements that are reminiscent of integral 1970s pioneers like Bowie, Heart, and t. Rex, and incorporated those elements into their already electrically charged sonic attack. From the moment ‘Shake Electric’ opens with “Mad Dog” the chemistry of the group steals the attention. The culmination of the vast array of influences has been instrumental is Spiders’ creation of a sound that is truly a classic modern sound with edges as sharp as they are rough. Key tracks like the title cut, “Only Your Skin”, and “Control”, manage to retain the evocative vibes and unprocessed nature of the music. There exists a notable moment on the album with the inclusion of an exceptional display of Spiders’ true diversity that comes in the form of a song entitled “Hard Times”. Its very nature intelligently displays the band’s ability to display their diversity in writing, regardless of their innate drive toward biting rock & roll. All things considered, the aural assault of ‘Shake Electric’ results in an unabating deluge of sound that ultimately relents only once the album is over.