[sic] Magazine

King Tuff – King Tuff

Kyle Thomas’s association with college slackers Happy Birthday is most relevant here. It must also be said that equally of reference is the King Tuff debut Was Dead – for little has changed in their mission statement in the four years since its release.

The King Tuff LP, like the Happy Birthday one before it, inhabits a strange musical space where initial spins of it are entirely deceptive. Blame it on market saturation, on a reviewer’s instinct to categorise and appraise from the first bar of track one or simply on sheer disbelief, but first impressions here are shrugworthy at best. Time however allows Thomas to work his magic, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Cue then a raft of dumb-but-fun slacker-pop anthems. There’s no pretence, for example, to “Alone And Stoned” – danceable thanks to its ready and overt hooks, it seems there’s a great Wavves track in here somewhere if Nathan Williams had at least an ounce of appreciation for his audience. Largely unplugged, “Baby Just Break The Rules” is as snotty as its title suggests and its handclap percussion downright infectious. The glitzy “Hit And Run” in turn requires a retrospective double-take to fully realise its status as some sort of stomping booty-shaker.

There’s then the surprising moment when you realise Thomas’s mildly treated vocal sounds not unlike Billy Corgan at his least incendiary during the less showy “Unusual World”. “ I’m going deeper ” he sings and it’s true, but we’re talking inches rather than with any heavy earth-moving machinery.

Few bands could away with this record. In fact, only one other springs to mind: The Thermals . There’s clearly then an art to making this sort of thing and “Bad Thing” proves it, working far better than it probably should. With the simplest of templates, Thomas enthuses over muscular drumming parts and a searching guitar solo, but it’s thanks to some magical glue that the track is so elevated when logic suggests otherwise.

King Tuff is not a cool record by any stretch, but it is a good record and that’s due in part to its enthusiasm – something never more evident that on “Stranger”, which runs with crunching guitar repeats and a kick-drum heartbeat. There’s a hard-to-explain Southern states flavour to its romping chord progressions too and “Anthem” makes the most of the same sound crashing it into some choice slacker-pop fuzziness.

One of the reasons that King Tuff works is down to balance. For every daft cut there’s a more linear line of horizontal hooks, for each rocking solo a gentle love song like “Swamp Of Love” to quiet any argument about insubstantiality. Confirming the latter as no one-off, “Evergreen” is also a very likeable if bleary-eyed ditty with an understated piano line buried in its woozy mix.

King Tuff is all about having fun and not really caring what anyone else thinks. It’s naturally therefore a record suited to kicking back in the rays of the oncoming summer. Questions will have to be asked in terms of overall impact and longevity, but they can wait until this brief, rewarding fling comes to its inevitable conclusion.

Advised downloads: “Alone And Stoned” and “Swamp Of Love”.

~King Tuff is released the 28th May 2012 on Sub Pop .~

King Tuff @ myspace

[sic] review – Happy Birthday