King Tuff – King Tuff (Music Review)

King Tuff cover

King Tuff – King Tuff

I have a soft spot for fuzzed-out garage rock, but I don’t always think of it as a distinct genre. Instead, it’s a filter that other styles can be run through, usually based on pop and rock sounds of past generations. Like adding spice to food, it can’t save something that doesn’t have a good taste to begin with, but it can add another dimension to something that’s already enjoyable.

As King Tuff demonstrates on last year’s self-titled release, personality also plays a strange role in this. While garage rock used to signal a DIY ethos, in this era of high-tech recording it’s always a conscious choice. Was the rest of their image calculated as well?

With a slightly forced falsetto that belies the care and control behind the performance, King Tuff bounces through four different personas in the first four tracks: “Anthem” is a lite-metal ode to music, with random mentions of gore, while “Alone & Stoned” captures the Blue Album-era Weezer aesthetic of the introverted geek. “Keep on Movin'” heads in the opposite direction, providing a sidewise look at 1960s dance hits. Featuring a smooth, sleazy groove and silly dance moves (“I do the creepy crawl/Crazy legs like Daddy Long”), it’s a fun joke that reveals nothing about the actual band. But then “Unusual World” slows things down, with a spacey sound and sensitive lyrics. It seems at first that there’s no common ground to the band’s approach.

Each song stands out on its own as a catchy, off-kilter work, though, and a more consistent personality develops by the end. The partying (“everybody dancin’ in the dirty club”) and occasionally monstrous imagery (“now I’m going rotten/I’m turning green”) work as youthful fantasies of rock stardom, which would make the minor-key ballads part of the emotion and angst of that age. It’s consistent once the songs are familiar, though none of them feel like they’re repeating each other. Even with that variety, every one deserves a place on the album.

It’s also worth noting that in place of a booklet, the CD comes with individual cards for each song. The only track listing is in the order of those inserts, giving it a flippant non-commercial air. But each one also features additional artwork, adding to the personality of the album. It’s fun, and the effort is appreciated. Maybe more than anything else, extra touches like that are a reminder that even when musical styles are calculated, they can still be labors of love.

Grade: B

 
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