|Photo by: subpop.com|
Key Tracks: “Bad Thing,” “Baby Just Break the Rules”
Master and commander Kyle Thomas has previously worked in the group Happy Birthday, collaborated with J Mascis in the trippy-metal group Witch, and contributed to freak-folk outfit Feathers. But Thomas’ most true-to-self, gimmick-free project is King Tuff, a lo-fi, fun-loving rock band from Los Angeles by way of Vermont.
On his second album under the Tuff title, Thomas treads in territory between punky, surfy garage-rock and spirited, tambourine-friendly glam-pop. Either way, his self-titled Sub Pop debut is an ideal companion to sunshine and short shorts.
In his bratty, pitchy whine that evokes the mock-voice of Christopher Owens in Girls’ “Lust For Life” and the nasal cry of Wavves’ Nathan Williams, Thomas sings upbeat, jubilant odes to slacking off, getting high, and generally just living the life of an unloved--but very lovable--loser.
The album-opener “Anthem” is an appropriately rousing riff-driven rock song, and it’s promptly followed by the equally engaging Ramones-influenced “Alone & Stoned” and the goofily groovy “Keep On Movin.’ ”
But the dizzying lo-fi guitar and Thomas’ smarmy squall only thinly veil the fact that King Tuff is actually an album full of insanely catchy pop songs.
The best example is “Bad Thing,” a forceful, wickedly addictive tune in which Thomas leaps from restrained sigh in the intro to bombastic belt in the chorus. The squealing Stratocaster might have come straight from the garage, but the attitude and energy were built for a stadium--or, at least, the radio.
An additional immediate favorite is “Baby Just Break the Rules,” another example of the expert balance between punk and panache, with its minimal acoustic foundation that kicks into a lush celebration of irreverence and rebellion while Thomas declares: “So I don’t remember what I did / But I sure as hell don’t give a shit.”
However, not every song is a standout. There are more than a few likable but forgettable tunes, and the album really hits its doldrums in “Unusual World” and “Evergreen,” where the feisty vibe gets bogged down in the groggy, mellow dreamscape. King Tuff doesn’t need to write those tedious, emptier-than-air ambient excursions--that’s what Beach House is for.
Besides the diversions, King Tuff is a solid album with reliably enjoyable songs sung by a thoroughly endearing frontman. The light-hearted and self-deprecating attitude might not make it one of the best albums of the year, but certainly a staple for June, July and August.
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