Album Reviews

The King Blues – Punk & Poetry

(Transmission) UK release date: 18 April 2011

Sometimes all it takes is a little context for things to make sense. It could be argued that some bands and significant musical movements need the right time and place in which to flourish. In light of the recent protest marches in London, it’s possible that the time is right for The King Blues.

No strangers to protest, vocalist Itch has detailed the band’s involvement in the G20 marches in The Guardian and their song These Streets Are Ours is a frequent staple at marches and rallies. Punk & Poetry, The King Blues’ third album, finds them on familiar ground in terms of intent, but in terms of consistency, this is perhaps their finest moment to date.

The Last Of The Dreamers quickly establishes that this album is a state of address. Itch’s gruff, impassioned delivery coupled with a neatly building backing track is essentially a call to arms, similar in tone to the emotions Mike Skinner evoked on Turn The Page, the opening salvo of Original Pirate Material. It’s an empowering musical cocking of the hammer, and it is thrilling.

If The Last Of The Dreamers gets the adrenalin racing, then We Are Fucking Angry starts the riot. Reminiscent of Senser, it is an aggressive Metal/Hip Hop blend that takes in elements of Jungle and Punk along the way. “This is class war, this is class war,” Itch bellows, before summing up his position with the words of the title. The chorus outlines a series of cuts that are far more agreeable than anything outlined in the current UK government’s policies: “Cut the bankers, cut the MPs, cut the rich and the riot police.” As alternatives go, it’s not a bad start. Although simplistic in its outlook, it is driven by a finely-honed punk engine that sharpens the senses for the upcoming battles.

Set The World On Fire continues in a similarly charged vein. Musically it’s slightly less aggressive than the opening punches, taking its lead from the Ska-inflected moments of Rancid. Lyrically it’s astute; taking aim at the media, cosmetic surgery and the apropriation of science and knowledge for corporate profit rather using it to make a real humanitarian difference. The target is hit consistently, and a ridiculously catchy chorus should find the invitation to burn everything down and start again lodged in the brains of anyone who hears it.

Elsewhere the political commentary continues in fine form. The Future’s Not What It Used To Be evokes The Specials‘ Ghost Town somewhat appropriately, and forces it up against thunderous Drum & Bass breaks. Five Bottles Of Shampoo starts clumsily but quickly becomes an eloquent and impassioned stand against misogyny. Sex Education meanwhile examines the role of internet porn in the sexual development of young men with smart rhymes, a dollop of humour and a note of caution.

If all this sounds like the band are too pious for their own good, it should be noted that they’re not without their poppier moments. Headbutt (which may nod to He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss) in its lyrics) is a�romp inspired by The Clash that allows Itch to spew tongue-twisted lyrics. It may be a song about ruptured love, but it sounds like pop perfection.

They might drop ball on the sentimental closer Everything Happens For A Reason, which is a bit too close to throwaway SoCal or godforbid Busted for comfort, but the strength of everything that precedes it makes up for this strangely weak finale. The King Blues are much better when they’re angry and making music to riot to.

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