Tape Head

REVIEW: King’s X – Tape Head (1998)


Complete studio albums (and more!), part 10

Scan_20151016KING’S X – Tape Head (1998 Metal Blade)

You never knew what you’d get with a new King’s X album.  Monstrous musicianship, intelligent lyrics, and integrity certainly; but they like to fly in all sorts of directions.  Tape Head, following the sweet pop rock of Ear Candy, was a monolithic slab compared to that earlier album.  In many regards Tape Head is a brother record to Doug Pinnick’s solo project PoundHound (more on them later).  The focus here is the groove.

Witness, the first song “Groove Machine”.  “Welcome to the groove machine,” sings Doug, letting his bass lay it down.  “Music oh music, such a funky thing. The closer you get, the deeper it means.”  He’s right.  Ty Tabor lays on a heavy wah-wah for his guitar solo, but not to be left out drummer Jerry Gaskill gets a bit of a solo too.  It’s simple, straightforward and unpretentious.  “Groove Machine” has but one purpose.

“Fade” continues the heavy groove direction, slower now, and with Ty Tabor taking the vocals in the chorus.  From the ultra-heavy bass to Jerry Gaskill’s beats, everything hits you exactly in the right spot.  A break in the groove occurs on “Over and Over”, a Doug ballad with sincere soul.  When Ty joins him in the chorus, the song becomes timeless.  Heavy again again but with the same kind of powerful chorus is “Ono”.  When you have an album as single-minded as Tape Head, you tend to grasp onto standout melodies like this even more.  King’s X let their 1960’s flag fly a little bit on “Cupid”, which doesn’t let up in the groove department, but does have shades of their hippie melodic bent.  That’s an appropriate way to lead into “Ocean”, a mellow Ty Tabor song that sounds like Ear Candy, but turned up to 11.  Doug’s hella-sonic bass just crushes, even though you could fairly call this song a ballad!  The difference between this and Ear Candy is all in the production.  Tape Head is self-produced and you can tell they just wanted to hear everything heavier and lower!

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Pure ear candy is “Little Bit of Soul” which sounds like it should.  Heavy rock knows no singer with as much soul as Doug Pinnick.  He even brings soul into “Hate You”, which is pretty straightforward in the lyric department!  Then “Higher Than God” is one of the mightiest choruses on the album, thanks again to Doug, with Ty and Jerry backing him.  Only King’s X can infuse R&B with their rock the way that they do.  Listen to Doug’s low vocal crooning on “Happy”.  Then he turns it up, lets it loose.  There is only one Doug Pinnick and he is a rock and soul treasure.

You might not expect the slight twang that starts off “Mr. Evil” but like most King’s X songs, it mutates into different forms.  (Nice steel guitar solo by Ty.)  If you were craving just one more killer chorus before it’s all over, then “World” delivers that and some heavy-ass grooves too.  The highlight here is a blazing rock n’ roll guitar solo, very different for Ty.  That’s not the last song though; there’s a surprise at the end that defies description except to say it’s pretty funny!

Tape Head is an impressive monument of rock indeed.  It bleeds pure gobs of soul, and it rocks the brain really, really hard.  It’s slimmer in the catchy melodies stockpile, but the relentlessness of direction draws you back in for another listen.  Some may lament that with Tape Head, their progressive metal past seems long behind them.  I think that was road they already turned from, with 1994’s Dogman.  They transformed into a heavier band, with echoes of their past but a sound that blends it all up.  The songs are not as distinct, but the groove is king on Tape Head.

4/5 stars

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)