Complete studio albums (and more!), part 17 – the Final Chapter!
KING’X – XV (2008 InsideOut)
King’s X faced many setbacks over their long 30+ year career. Their last obstacle has been the hardest and most serious of all, and because of that, 2008’s XV album remains their most recent. That’s a tough pill to swallow, because for many fans XV was largely considered a return to form.
“Pray” immediately starts things right: face-crushing bass, a groove you can’t get out of, and a funky melody. You are transported back in time to the late 80’s and early 90’s, but with modern slants and production…and funk! The song boasts a soulful, powerful chorus just like the classics King’s X built their foundation on. What a satisfying opener. Peel yourself off the floor though, because it’s over before you know it and the next song “Blue” has launched. King’s X have always been successful at balancing their sound with soft songs, while maintaining their integrity. It’s a great track sonically, though missing a killer chorus. XV strikes me as the best produced King’s X album since the mighty Dogman.
Better than “Blue” is the gentle “Repeating Myself”, Ty Tabor’s first vocal outing on XV. Everything is in its right place: Ty’s delicate picking, the patented King’s X harmonies, and just a touch of Beatles-y psychedelia. “Repeating Myself” is possibly the most perfect song King’s X had done in many years. It melds perfectly right into “Rocket Ship”, a mid-tempo heavy rocker with “single” written all over it. The 60’s psychedelia remains, but wrapped up in a heavy stomping riff. “Society-sanctioned brain-washing tries to wrap its arms around me,” sings Dug Pinnick, still unafraid to tackle issues in his words. Jerry Gaskill takes his first XV lead vocal on the lovely “Julia”. Another perfect song. It’s a ballad that reminds me of everybody from the Beatles to Shaw-Blades and Motley Crue, of all people. Then it’s foot to the gas on the irresistible “Alright”. This is a classic King’s X rocker, but this time with gang vocals on the chorus. It’s gangbusters. One of the catchiest King’s X songs yet.
Greasy blues rock guitar kicks off “Free” with an unusually simple Gaskill beat behind it. This transforms into possibly the most soul-infused King’s X song ever, with it’s inescapable “Na na na na, yeah!” backing vocals. For the first time since Ear Candy in ’96, it seems King’s X just wanted to write and record some catchy songs. Of course this is done with all of their diverse influences and talents, but it does not mean the band stopped progressing in order to write some pop rock. “Free” is catchy indeed, and easily could have been on the radio, but it also has lyrical integrity. “The debt is rising, and you overload, because you’re broke, is this a joke? So go buy something, that you can’t afford, because you’re broke, is this a joke?” Musically, by turning the soul knob right up to 11, King’s X have progressed again.
Ty Tabor takes his turn on a mournful ballad called “I Just Want to Live”. A fine song, “I Just Want to Live” won’t be remembered as well as the previous tracks. Then the aptly titled “Move” has a pulse that you won’t believe. It’s Dug Pinnick’s bass that drives this thing, in a very 80’s kind of sparse arrangement. The awesome chorus seals the deal: it’s killer. Ty once again provides the soft side on “I Don’t Know”, another simply beautiful King’s X ballad, much like his Ear Candy material. His guitar solo here is a work of pure magic, and I swear to you that I did actually feel a chill go up my spine. Honest truth.
Winding it down, Dug makes “Stuck” stick to your brain with some unusual melodies. It’s an unorthodox song and in that way it reminds us of early King’s X, though it sounds little like it. The return of the massive grooves on “Go Tell Somebody” turns this church singalong into a groove metal classic. “If you like what you hear, go tell somebody!” Yeah Dug, you said it! Word of mouth, baby. That’s kept King’s X alive through some difficult decades. They must have known, recording this song, that it was going to be awesome.
I’ve never seen a version of XV without bonus tracks, but my import digipack has ’em too. “Love and Rockets (Hell’s Screaming)” is an interesting song with a good riff. Dug sings the vocal with a calmness, as opposed to the wailing of “Go Tell Somebody”. Then “No Lie” is a jokey blues. “I’ve never sung this song before,” says Dug at the start. This one truly is a bonus track; although it has instrumental integrity, it doesn’t feel like a sincere part of the album. Another version of the album (probably Japanese) has a demo version of “Rocket Ship” as a bonus track. (Add to “Holy Grail” list)
XV is a solidly entertaining album with only a few moments that drag. For all the complaints about albums like Manic Moonlight or Black Like Sunday, XV sounds like redemption.
Jerry Gaskill suffered his first heart attack on February 25 2012. He required surgery but was feeling strong. King’s X had a tour booked to start only one month later, which had to be cancelled. Then in October of that year, his home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fans rallied and donated money to help the Gaskill family rebuild. As if all of this was not enough to deal with, Gaskill had a second heart attack two years later. This required a double bypass. Once again, King’s X cancelled all gigs. They released special live albums to benefit the drummer, and only now in 2015 have they managed to get back on the road and start work on a new album.
We have waited a long time, but we will continue to wait as long as we need. King’s X will return!
This series is dedicated to Dug, Jerry and Ty. Long may they reign.
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)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)