[sic] Magazine

King Tuff – Black Moon Spell

Kyle Thomas has already graduated from by-numbers college rock to dumb-but-fun garage boogie and now, with Black Moon Spell, he’s moved onto glam-fired freakouts. Ty Segall, who here turns in the drums on “Headbanger”, recently dialled up his own inner Metal Guru for the Manipulator LP, but there’s a substantial difference between the two records. Manipulator may be Segall’s poppiest persona to date but Black Moon Spell, Thomas’s third solo record, is pure pop from start to finish.

Despite his skin-deep themes, Thomas has never been a first-impressions sort of guy however. There’s no questioning his ability to write a snappy intro, but what follows sometimes feels a bit lightweight, such as the snotty little skate-pop jam “Sick Mind” that simply pops with crunchy guitar candy in place of any real substance. Then there’s the Glam itself and when Thomas’s tongue is so firmly wedged in his cheek as it is on the camp “Eddie’s Song”, which owes as much to the Quo as it is does The Sweet or Mud, it can all get a bit too much.

Mercifully, there’s an art to making this sort of thing and Thomas knows the formula to make it come together more often than not. One of his secrets is balance. To compensate, then, for the swampy skit “I Love You Ugly” you get a quickfire trio that starts with “Demon From Hell” and finishes with “Radiation”. Into the blender goes backwoods honkey-tonk, rockabilly holler, sci-fi kitsch and strangled shred – all in less than five minutes. In turn, to apologise for occasionally going too nasal and whiny, Thomas surprises by stripping back the glitter and turning in a proper grown-up psychedelic rocker like “Staircase Of Diamonds”, which may or may not contain some of those back-masked messages the one-sheet talks about.

Black Moon Spell is fun and that’s where it stands up. The title track struts its way through the most carefree parts of the Bowie and Bolan canon, riffing just for the hell of it over the close. The fuzzy pop-rocker “Rainbow’s Run” gallops free with the sun and wind and its hair. And even when Thomas does get dark, digging into broken rock ‘n’ roll dreams while on the paranoid edge of a bad trip during the excellent “Magic Mirror”, you know he’s just doing for kicks. Sometimes you want off-the-cuff guys like Thomas to knuckle down and deliver a consistently great LP. With Thomas though, you get the feeling that without the fun factor it’d all be a grind, man.

Best tracks: “Magic Mirror” and “Staircase Of Diamonds”

~Black Moon Spell is released September 22nd via Sub Pop.~