Seemingly a part of the second coming of garage rock that’s being spearheaded by the likes of Ty Segall, King Tuff has released his third studio album, Black Moon Spell, and it doesn’t show any signs of deviation from what you would come to expect from this outfit. Overall the record is much the same as his previous releases – distorted, quick-paced, scrappy – but that’s not necessarily a problem here.
A late comer to the simplicity and nonchalant nature of garage rock music, I’ve probably become its biggest fan and follower among my circles, but if there were one artist I would choose to demonstrate this style to others it would be King Tuff. Quite simply, he strikes me as the crossover band for this, a style of music which is, at its core, simple and fun – you could pick pretty much any half-known group and their songs won’t be any more complicated than three or four chords and/or progressions, it’s that accessible. Where King Tuff differentiates is the production of their sound; while the vast majority of garage rock will be drenched in distortion, they come across as at least being in control of it. The resulting sound is somewhere between power pop and glam rock that still keeps the aggression of punk in mind.
The album itself, you’ll get through pretty quickly as each song is only 2-3 mins long a time, something that I find lends itself to this genre given the explosive bursts and energy that you can find within it. There are some standout songs, Headbanger being one of my picks, but for the most part this album is comprised of songs that won’t really set themselves apart – while I did enjoy the record, overall it doesn’t really deliver anything you haven’t seen or heard before. Granted, the production and energy of King Tuff is ever-present and it’s worth crediting them for that as too many bands seem to think that being barely audible or understandable means you’re a good garage band, whereas these three guys obviously put a bit more thought into their sound.
Would I recommend this album to anyone? Honestly, probably not. It just doesn’t really spark in the way that it could, there’s some combustible element missing from this record. You look at others in this genre and there’s an unpredictability about what you’re listening to which doesn’t surface in Black Moon Spell. That’s not to say it’s a bad album, it’s just not very engaging.
As much as I do like this style of music, there can be times when you feel like you’re in something of a garage rut – too much of it can leave you thinking it all just sounds the same, and you miss out on what makes this genre great. Technically speaking, it’s not the most challenging, a fair thing to say I think, but what it lacks in the way of composition in comparison to other genres, it makes up for in unbridled passion.
A musical movement that has been forever associated with the disparaged youth, the peripherals of contemporary culture, its strength lies in its oddness. The very thing that puts people off it is what I love about garage rock; it’s faceless, without judgement or inclination. It is spontaneous, emotive, unfiltered.
Perhaps in being one of the more accessible groups of this genre, the sounds of King Tuff won’t ever be as impactful as those who are happy to lose themselves in volume and distortion, but they will forever be one to keep an eye on.