King Tuff – The Other (Sub Pop)

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King Tuff’s Black Moon Spell was an album that rarely left my turntable in 2014. Y’see, I love T.Rex and it was the closest I was gonna get in the modern world. Aside from the glam infused garage rock, the long player even dipped into Bolan’s early folk leanings with Tyrannosaurs Rex, and it was a beautiful thing. Fast forward four years and The Other is album number five from Kyle Thomas (the man behind the King Tuff persona). It’s a title that’s more than apt for the record’s content. If people were to expect a fuzzy psych-out then I’m afraid things have evolved for better or worse, given your rock ‘n’ roll viewpoint.

Having experienced first hand, and albeit on a much lesser scale, the mental and physical strain a musical beast you have created can easily turn and bite you on the arse, the new King Tuff record reflects the other side of the rock ‘n’ roll coin; one that’s open, bare and without cliche. Chimes and organs open the title track and as Thomas puts it himself, “it’s a song about hitting rock bottom.” It’s a statement of intent of what’s to follow with spaced-out lyrical confusion and rumination spewed from an addled brain. At times it’s not a pleasant place. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Previous psychedelic tendencies are still ever-present throughout The Other with Rainbow Blue and Pyscho Star boasting glorious funky Technicolor layers amid King Tuff’s familiar catchy hooks. The question must be begged though – should this album have been released as King Tuff or Kyle Thomas? The argument for the latter is valid as the album is a weird musical departure for fans of old and is clearly a personal creative trip for Thomas. But as the man himself states, “…this time I let the songs lead me where they wanted to go, instead of trying to push them into a certain zone.” Ultimately, what you are getting is King Tuff through varying phases and not a one dimensional offering.

Sure, it would have been easy enough to create another balls-out rock ‘n’ roll belter, but then Kyle Thomas wouldn’t have remained true to himself. Who knows where the road will lead us next, but this is the honest sound of King Tuff… NOW! Ginge Knievil

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