Friday, 27 July 2012

Review: The King Blues - Long Live the Struggle

2011 photo of the band 'cos they're split.
Couldn't even tell you if this was the
final band lineup.
 Since I spent last night banging on about the still sad split of Fei Comodo, I figure it's long overdue that I take time to talk about the unexpected split of London punks The King Blues in April. Last year, the eclectic musical group were at the top of their game, having finally found a massive following with whom they rocked, danced and lyrically informed with the overtly political messages of frontman Jonny "Itch" Fox thanks to the release of the beautifully diverse Punk & Poetry. Without a doubt, 2011 saw The King Blues become everyone's favourite underdog heroes.

 It's little wonder that everyone was so stunned when they split up some months ago and it seems that there is some ongoing argument as to what sparked the split besides Itch's simple explanation that his passion faded away, however the amounts of inner turmoil and tension within the band due to various unexplained events suggests otherwise as well as takes away much respect that fans had of the band. Either way, it has left us listeners with the posthumous fourth album Long Live the Struggle, which serves as a grand  final chapter for a band that will go down as underdog heroes in the realm of British punk rock.

 Long Live the Struggle shows that The King Blues were very much a band that were filled with new ideas and unique ways of presenting their music so that no two songs sound the same yet had a distinct identity to those that were creating it. It's identified across Long Live the Struggle as we're taken through delicate acoustic led melodies, thumping dub beats, hook filled punk rock which shows as much of a pop punk influence as it does from fully fledged hardcore groups and even a touch of emotional balladry, all of which sums up a life of growing up in London amongst social and political breakdown as individuals that the Government like to look down upon and leave to rot away while ridiculous amounts of money are spent on things which are unlikely to have any lasting impact or live up to any great promise. Hey, the Olympics start tonight!

 It's because of the extent of the realism that The King Blues dealt with, that when Itch yells out "If you ain't angry, you ain't paying attention!" about the Government on We Are What We Own that it becomes more potent and memorable material than a lot of currently rising British rock bands that sing about failed relationships using maritime metaphors. (Nah, I'm not gonna insult Lower Than Atlantis. They're... fine. Sometimes.) Even when failed relationships are an issue within the album on Wasted Words, it's delivered with more realism than most other bands with female led choruses and a reminiscence of more R n' B material. Akin to a lot of crappy radio R n' B, it is of a sort dome in a more thoughtful, realistic and tragic manner, particularly if personal reasons are attached. But let's not focus on that.

 The most realistic moment of the album comes on This is My Home, which almost a year since the London Riots effectively presents the again realistic notion of being in a London community at the time. With the song essentially consisting of Itch's acted out phone call following more R n' B inflicted choruses, it can either be viewed as dull, tragic or ironic. With the radio-friendly pop choruses spewing out lines like "What you thinking, little bastards!" and "It's four in the morning, I'm bloody tired!" there's little chance that you'd hear it properly on radio. I believes serves as a song that delivers some dark humour without even trying.

 The more exciting moments of the album are the heavier and frantic moments that try and live up tot he heights of Punk & Poetry. Can't Bring Me Down thunders into life and lights up with Itch's furious rapping skills and choruses fueled by dubstep and the deluded screams of letlive.'s Jason Butler, the second best song he's been heard on since he did guest vocals for Your Demise. And it's still better than anything he's done in ,letlive.

 Alongside this, it's a welcome sound to (briefly) hear the vocals of ska-punk hero Tim Armstrong on Booted Out of Hell. Maybe I'm just really eager for Rancid put out some new material, so it's cool to hear him around. In honesty though, his cameo isn't really a sign of him on top form but what he gives to The King Blues is undeniably him, if not underwhelming at the same time.

 So, Long Live the Struggle appears as a strong final chapter to The King Blues' career, if not as strong as Punk & Poetry. There are a lot of strong songs that see the band display their messages with much vigor and enthusiasm but it's been done better before and in that sense, the album isn't exactly a full-on grand finale. Particularly with the R n' B influences in mind, there's little doubt as to why many were suggesting selling-out to be an issue. So, with the band being officially over, who knows what will happen next. Hints have gone around of Itch starting a solo career which he would make even more musically diverse, but I can't imagine it going down so well. Many people who have blamed him for splitting up the band aren't likely to jump on the bandwagon and I can just see people now calling him a rip-off of Plan B. But for now, we say our farewells to a band that could have gone on to be the next Clash and marvel at what could have spelled out a brighter career for them.

The King Blues' Long Live the Struggle is out now via Transmission Recordings.

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