Complete studio albums (and more!), part 6
KING’S X – King’s X (1992 Atlantic)
The end of an era: the self-titled album. When you self-title a record, it’s usually meant to be a statement. Who knows if King’s X knew that theirs would be the end of the classic era of the band? Tensions with producer/manager Sam Taylor were increasing and this would be their last collaboration.
King’s X, the album, seems to hone in on songwriting. There are no long bombers, just short and taut King’s X songs. “The World Around Me” exemplifies this. The main ingredients are intact: Doug’s soulful but pained lead vocals mixed with the lush backing of the other two, the heavy but uniquely constructed riffs, and the diverse assortment of influences. This song, and the next (“Prisoner”) get in and get out quick, delivering the necessary hooks with integrity. They don’t spend time noodling or meandering. The songs are more direct this time, without selling out. You still can’t mistake what band this is. There is only one band that sounds like King’s X, and that’s due to a unique vocal blend, and playing that sounds like no one else.
“The Big Picture”, the first ballad, doesn’t sound all too different from the Faith Hope Love material. Good song, but a retread. Then we’re “Lost In Germany”, with Doug and Ty Tabor sharing vocals, but this is one song that annoys more than it entertains. Something about that chorus. “Germany, lost in Germany!” Maybe it’s the fact that my old boss at the Record Store used to make fun of this song, or maybe it’s just corny. It has a tricky little Steve Vai-esque guitar lick, but I don’t want to be “Lost in Germany” any more. Having found the autobahn, we get off next at the “Chariot Song”. Accelerating breakneck, this song kicks ass. Time signatures and keys change left right and center, but it’s a cohesively awesome song. All I dislike are the self referencing lyrics: “Out of the planet comes Gretchen with faith, hope and love.” You’ll love the psychedelic Beatles section in the middle. Fave tune “Ooh Song” blows out the speakers. The stuttery riff and dark melodies hint at where King’s X were headed. “Ooh Song” and “Chariot Song” are a whopper of a one-two punch, 100% King’s X, no selling out.
“Not Just for the Dead” is uplifting, with hints of piano and sitar. It has a proud, anthemic quality before it too ventures into psychedelia. An album highlight for sure. Then, “What I Know About Love” (the closest thing to a long bomber on this album) has a long Ty Tabor solo section; very cool. “Black Flag” was the lead single but never a favourite of mine. Like “Lost in Germany”, something about the chorus just isn’t happening. Seeing Doug flying around in his underoos, in the music video, is entertaining however. There are also some King’s X puppets — somebody made actual puppets of the guys for props in this video. I sure hope somebody hung onto those!
Winding down the album, Ty’s mellow “Dream in my Life” just kind of sits there. It doesn’t have the drama I crave in King’s X. Fortunately, the closer “Silent Wind” kicks ass completely. The verses and chorus are equally excellent. This is a powerhouse of a song, and though a closer, could have made a much better single than the two they picked!
King’s X created another solid album, but for the first time it felt like they had not progressed. King’s X feels like an amalgam of previous King’s X albums, and maybe that was the point. Still one of the greatest rock bands of all time, they spun their tires a little here. But change was afoot.
The only King’s X album I reviewed prior to this series was Dogman (1994), and that review is the next chapter in this series. You can read it by clicking here now!
As stated above, Kings’s X, the album, was the end of an era. Dogman would be dramatically different. There were no lead vocals by Ty Tabor, and they had gotten much, much heavier. Putting the emphasis more on the groove, and installing Brendan O’Brien at the console, King’s X delivered a punishing sledge of an album. Dogman rates 4.9999~/5 stars, just shy of a full 5/5. Check out the full review for that. Also previously published is a mini-review for a promotional CD single for the track “Pillow” from Dogman, complete with two then-unreleased live bonus tracks. Click ’em both.
KING’S X review series:
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)