When you hear the opening strains of NY on this, the debut King Of Spain album, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a sped up version of Maximo Park covering Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper.
But don’t look away, not yet – for King Of Spain are nowhere near as alarming as that sounds. Quite the opposite, as they prove an enticing prospect, as close to underground indie-dom as you can get.
There’s lots to enjoy in their approach to music. They use very few frills on the musical side, which means we’re stripped down to basic good songwriting and guitar licks. The advantage to be gained through this is that we can enjoy the lyrics.
Can I Touch is especially appealing, the album’s best song finding Bayly Pike singing, “I like the way you look in your scarlet dress, you smiled at me even though I was a mess, let me take you somewhere to rest your head, and we’ll talk about Flaming Lips”. He makes this somehow sound like a Very Good Idea.
Meanwhile Bacon manages the unlikely rhyming couplet of “your daddy’s lawyer” and “Carlos Moya”. Perhaps there are more links between the band’s locale of Balham and Spain than we previously thought! Then again, maybe not. “There’s a wino in the bedroom, who sits on me at night”, goes Menagerie, Pike’s head going for a walkabout.
Pike it is whose asides will make you smile, laugh and occasionally wince. His vocal is a softer complement to Maximo Park’s Paul Smith in its wry commentary on people, places and emotions, though the backing is less urgent – more a Saturday afternoon in the pub than the Park’s Saturday Night on the town.
But the lyrics really do speak for themselves, so it’s best to sample a few more. “You can share my menagerie” is the luxurious promise of Menagerie. Record Girl is rather more desperate. “I would get down on my knees and swim the seven seas”, Pike pleads to the object of his affections. Yet in the wistful Flying Machine he’s more bullish. “I am the King of Spain!” he proclaims.
“Ten more minutes is all I’ve got” is a worry for him earlier on. Give it another 20 and you’ll have heard the bulk of this album – and more than likely found yourself submitting to the charms of the King Of Spain. Via Balham.