Thursday, July 07, 2011

The King Blues - Punk & Poetry

"...a generation has finally found its answer to The Clash"
I'm far more stoked about this album than any other released so far this year. Maybe that's partly because I only discovered them about a month ago, when the words "I only follow the mob to lynch the Prime Minister" leaped out at me whilst I was waiting for the inevitable next Foo Fighters track on Kerrang radio. Perhaps I'm still in that first flush of excitement I get whenever I find a new musical accompaniment to my life, so I might be about to say something I'll regret later. But sod it, I can't contain myself. I think a generation has finally found its answer to The Clash.

Not that I would have known it a few weeks back, but this is apparently the same story as Arch Enemy - an already 'political' band inspired to greater focus on the class war by unfolding events. In The King Blues' case - the battle of Millbank and the first stirrings of UK Uncut were hitting the headlines at the time they checked into the studio last November. Other songs - which had been repeatedly tried live - were shelved, as the urgency of now kicked in. The resulting unleashed fury sounds so fresh, real and confident, and the mixture of styles is something profoundly healthy after years of musical stagnation.

Lead vocalist and lyricist Jonny 'Itch' Fox's great strength is his ability to set radical ideas to a form of poetry that will instantly connect with the dispossessed and disenfranchised, whether they are students of literature or have never read anything more wordy than a tabloid. His is a precious talent, and he is ably assisted by five genuinely artistic musicians.

The album opens with Last Of The Dreamers - one of two straight up poems on this release - which sets-up the themes of the next half hour very nicely. In short, if you like this kind of thing, then it's dedicated to you, and everyone like you. Then without further ado we're straight into We Are Fucking Angry, which spits venom at the "vampire blood suckers" in government, over a strident reggae beat (yes, they exist now), and roars that "we are fighting back".

The King Blues "are fucking angry" about the state of the world
But there's no let-up yet, because you're just about to be hit with the catchiest thing since the common cold - Set The World On Fire. "Watch it all burn down/We can start again/Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!". Yes indeed.

After the brief respite of Dancehall, the gorgeous trumpets of The Future's Not What It Used To Be seem to perfectly articulate the disillusionment so many teenagers and twenty-somethings now feel, after their rude political awakening. Then it's radio-friendly summer love song I Want You, except this isn't any old radio-friendly love song. Oh no, Itch wants the object of his affections "like a bully wants to be understood", "like the ghetto needs a new Robin Hood", "like a soldier wants the smell of home" and "like Robson wants Jerome".

5 Bottles of Shampoo is a patriarchy-blaming celebration of women who fight oppression, which segues superbly into Sex Education, an exploration of how healthy sexuality is filtered through the perversions of internet pornography. Then, on the short but sweet ukulele strum of Shooting Fascists, Itch reminds any would-be far rightists listening that their granddads didn't vote for fascists. On the contrary, they shot 'em. 

If Punk & Poetry appears to tail off into lowlights here, it's only because it's fallen from such giddy heights. Does Anybody Care About Us? seems a little contrived, and covers similar ground to The Future's Not What It Used To Be, but it would certainly catch the ear of someone who'd never heard the previous tracks. And Everything Happens For A Reason might be quite unaffecting, but it still shows off Itch's technical lyrical skill.

In general, this is music that could energise you; that could make you feel angry and amazingly happy to be alive all at the same time. I'm impatient to see where The King Blues will go next, but a lot of that depends on what happens in workplaces and on the streets, when the fucking angry of the earth make our next move.
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