Complete studio albums (and more!), part 14
KING’S X – Manic Moonlight (2001 Metal Blade)
Around this time, I stepped off the King’s X train.
A while after this album came out, a friend of mine from London (Ontario) named Edith-Rose came to help paint the new condo and hang out. As part of the deal I was to take her record shopping in all our decent stores. She bought a shit-ton of CDs. From the HMV up in Waterloo that doesn’t exist anymore, to Encore Records, to our own stores, she spent a lot of money that day. I came home with a few discs as well. Among them was Manic Moonlight by King’s X.
I bought it because it was used and it was the first time I’d seen it used. Truthfully, Mr. Bulbous lost me. Buying their next album didn’t seem a priority. We took the CD back to my place and gave it a spin. Edith-Rose liked it, especially the track “Static”. As for me, “Static” was the only song that stuck out. I have not listened to the CD in well over a decade. All I can really remember is that this is when Jerry Gaskill and the band started experimenting with drum loops. That is not a bad thing, but that is all I can remember about this album. Reviewing it with fresh ears, let’s have a listen, shall we?
The drum loops opening “Believe” are unlike anything on prior King’s X albums. Fortunately, the steam-powered real-life Jerry Gaskill comes in soon enough for this funky slam-dunk. The funk is emphasized by clavinet, and of course Doug Pinnick’s perpetually soulful voice. This slow funkster is bass-heavy and melodic, with just enough of those heavenly King’s X harmonies. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with this song, no! Computer-ish loops open the title track, “Manic Moonlight”, which aside from the modern production isn’t a far stretch from the classic King’s X sound. The psychedelic side of King’s X is out to play; lush 1960’s hippie vocals over a heavy 2001 rhythm.
There seems to be a theme playing out. Songs seems to open with loops, every time, and this is becoming a predictable drag. Fuzzy electronics open “Yeah” which basically a chorus without a song. It’s a great chorus, and if only it had some more meat on that bass heavy skeleton, it could have been a King’s X classic of the ages. It is cool to hear King’s X digging deep into the funk; Doug slappin’ da bass as best he can. The soft sounds of tabla are the loop of choice on the dreamy “False Alarm”. The production of the day seemed to be to distort Doug’s deep voice, which is a shame. Anyway, “False Alarm” is a King’s-Beatles-X strawberry field in the sky with diamonds, and it’s just shy of being great. Very close to the mark but not quite there.
“Static” is just as intense as I remember. You can hear why it jumped out to Edith-Rose and I years ago. For the first time on the album, the loops (tabla again) seem to be an integral part of the song rather than just an intro. Tense and direct, “Static” is bare-bones and absolutely nothing like King’s X of old, and good on them. Music is not about standing still. Music is about emotion, and “Static” is not short of those. Without a doubt, “Static” is the centerpiece of Manic Moonlight, and coincidentally (?) this is at precisely the point where an album would be split between side A and side B….
Down with the funk again on “Skeptical Winds”, plenty of new ground was being broken with this band. Strangely this song has a vibe similar to a 1994 Kim Mitchell rap-rock song called “Acrimony”; coincidental I’m certain but if you know the song then you can imagine “Skeptical Winds”. Doug’s spoken word vocals (distorted again, but that’s OK this time) are reminiscent of Kim’s, but the sparse and uber-funky bassline is 100% Doug. It’s a very different song, but cool. Although it isn’t loaded to the gills with time changes and riffs like King’s X of yore, it is still a long bomber jam session at almost seven minutes.
Having a knack for ballads, “The Other Side” has some beautiful moments built into it. It doesn’t hit the ball out of the park, but it has quality and ambition to spare. “Vegetable” has more cool funk, and importantly a soulful chorus that kills. “Jenna” has one of the heaviest riffs on the album, but doesn’t stand out…which is a shame as it is the last song. The final track, “Water Ceremony” is a joke track, closing the album on a burp! That’s…odd!
Of note: the always lucky Japanese fans got two bonus tracks. These were longer versions of “Believe” and “Vegetable”.
Manic Moonlight was a surpise to revisit, and with only a few sluggish moments (“Jenna” among them), it’s certainly a lot better than I remember.
Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)