Kyle Thomas is such a prolific songwriter that he needs three incarnations to utilize the vast amount of styles that emanate from his fertile brain (Happy Birthday, Witch, King Tuff). "King Tuff" the self entitled second King Tuff Album is wickedly smart and catchy. Kyle has created post punk pop songs sprinkled with equal doses of glam, pure bubbly gum, garage rock, teeny bopper, western punk, folk, and psychedelia and managed to keep it all fresh. King Tuff can do boogie woogie blues based rock as hard as the New York Dolls (Stranger) and and conversely do a song like Keep on Movin that with it's handclaps and bubblegum feel that could literally be a song that the Brady Bunch would of sung with their stoner smiles, (yes those were stoner smiles) AND not sound like homages to things before. Kyle has written a brilliant (ostensibly indie pop) album that sounds genuine on it's face and underneath has a lot of heart. Vocally, Thomas can have a Dylan-esque cadence especially at the end of lyrical phrases but his bite and adolescent defiant snarl kind of reminds me of Jody Taylor Worth of LA short lived 80's band- Blow Up.
Anthem bristles with big rock 90's indie prog rock and has some wonderful guitar lines. Alone and Stoned starts with a walkie talkie sound guitar and nasally voice, then at 25 seconds in it explodes into this delicious fast bottomed beat, the kind of beat that is moving like it is trying to catch up with itself. At 45 seconds in, the chorus kicks in and I literally said, (through a big faced grin), "DAMN!" as doubled falsetto vocals and a flury of tasty guitar licks enveloped me. I haven't heard such such infectious indie pop in a long time. Unusual World gallops into a dreamy place that certainly must be multi-colored and full of rainbows but with dark clouds looming. With it's indie teeny bop vocals blended in the sugar wash, it is full on pop but still has a bit of sad lurking underneath which I like very much. Bad Thing simply rocks your ass off and feels like mid 80's LA rock to me. Baby Just Break The Rules- veers nicely into folk / western punk. Loser's Walk with it's jangly guitar along with Thomas' especially venomous vocals feels like a collision between the Stones and Iggy Pop.
It is definitely hard to pick a favorite track on King Tuff but as I am writing this review it has to be Stupid Superstar. Some of the rock progs feel like 90's British indie rock but the song is drenched in this sweet glam syrup. This is one of the most produced tracks on the album with tasty harmonies and guitar licks AND a really beautifully psychedelic musical bridge. Evergreen- which I thought was going to be on the next Happy Birthday project is here instead. One of the most down tempo tracks on this album, it is dreamy and could of existed on a 60's hippie trip in Donovan Leitch's brain. It is a perfectly beautiful lullaby, "I'm not really here.... not really here... not really here." Swamp of Love - a tambourine fueled ballad is one of those songs that a crowd sways to, sings along with and raise up their lighters or fully emblazoned cell phones to. It gets pretty lush and big mid way through straying head long into that "All You Need is Love" territory. Hit and Run with it's Italian Police Siren guitar is a full throttle dance that could very well be underneath the ending credits of a teen comedy movie. It is a little too overblown for my taste but it is the only speed bump on this entire record.
In Swamp of Love, Kyle sweetly sings, "Why is love so full of sun and rain?" and King Tuff's self entitled album is similarly full of hard and soft edges and that is nice thing. It makes you remember when you rode that teen line before you became cynical and hard. A time when things were more black and white. A time when you could be more happy than you could imagine as well as get your heart broken in so many pieces that you literally want to die. Step back into that mindset and let King Tuff wash over you.
You can Stream the Album here-