King Tuff – King Tuff

Kyle Thomas is King Tuff. He played in a band called Feathers before teaming with sourfaced J. Mascis in Witch, and now spans both Happy Birthday and KT. Oh God, my initial reaction is he sounds like Joe Walsh mutated by nerve toxins.

Hopeful romantic, or homeless asthmatic, his flat, colorless, smothered vocals reveal both a hole in the soul and the possibility of a tracheotomy somewhere in his past. But within drop dispersion throughout 12 wounded pop-solid tracks are some of the catchiest, effervescent but offbeat bluesy brawling around. From tawny-tussled rockers to folk-sweaty ballads, King Tuff sketches out a raw, English-driven horde of kooky but critical couplets. “Way out of the commonplace/ You dream of outer space.” “Sing the anthem, a song of the dead/ Sing the love song, that rots in your head…” Yeah, OK, it’s Daniel Johnston with a touch of Fuad Ramses. That’s how it’s done, and rather than give nothing but an overview I’ll concentrate on three tracks that stand out.

“Bad Thing,” with its trailing-off chorus of “I’m a baddad baaada thing,” there’s this asymmetrical youth urgency like in the movie Over the Edge, only that world hasn’t existed in 40 years! “Stranger,” an ode to isolation and antisocial cynicism, only goes to show nothing much has changed. And track number eight, “Baby Just Break,” as in adolescent nee middle-aged rebellion! Wrapped in sullen, sneered attitude, Thomas has that dissatisfied cry of a Berkowitzian observer that nothing much is ever going to change either!

His blend of Poppy Family death knell poetics and rebel rousing shoot-from-the-hip hostility seems garbled by design, either to throw off the message or reign in the moon potato mythology, making for a presentable power pop prediction. I was won over by “Bad Thing” – it seemed to flutter in the rafters like unbridled biblical banter with one’s soul hanging in the balance. And the record is balanced on the precipice of impending rock ‘n’ roll collapse.

There’s some things that’re just meant to be.

King Tuff
King Tuff
[Sub Pop]