Saturday, 20 February 2016

Album Review: Off With Their Heads by The King Blues

Not a lot surprises me in the world of punk rock anymore but when The King Blues announced their reformation in November of 2015 that was definitely an "oh my god" moment. By all accounts the break up had been very messy so for many it seemed unfathomable that the band would reunite. Since their split the people who are "running" the country keep making bad decision after bad decision, and it’s this that has helped bring The King Blues back together. First some support slots with Enter Shikari were announced, then a few smaller headline shows of their own and finally a brand new EP titled Off With Their Heads was released. This is my review of that EP.

When the news first broke about The King Blues getting back together the headline was "Guess Who's Back And Pissed Off Again" and this is very evident in the opening song, title track Off With Their Heads. Opening with that very headline, the song is in the same angry style as the King Blues classic We Are Fucking Angry. The song starts with the words "Guess Who's Back And Pissed Off Again (the lines from the Kerrang headline), Bastards In Power Nobody's Stopping Them, So I'm Ticking My Shit List Off Again, Now Who Do We Kill, Blood On Our Hands, Man History’s Evil, God Save The Queen, Bald Headed Eagle, We Bomb Innocent People To Save Innocent People, This Ain't Just Stupid It's Stupid The Sequel". The King Blues are clearly back with a bang and are only just getting started as this leads into the repetitive chorus of "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!" Few other vocalists do angry as well as Jonny "Itch" Fox and still manage to get their point across. The anger and aggression in the track transmits into a lot of energy that could really empower people to help make a change. Incredible song writing! The second song makes a big shift in sound and is more like traditional King Blues. Starting Fires does something the band do incredible well: intertwining love songs with politics. I honestly can't think of another band that have ever done this well. Itch's vocals are much softer here and the song has much more of a storytelling feel to it. I loved the section towards the end of the song where the tempo of Itch's vocals quickens and acts as a build towards the final big chorus of "Starting Fires, Starting Fires, Starting Fires, To Light Your Way Home, To Me". Poems & Songs sees The King Blues go to their most lovely and sweet side. Whether singing about politics or love, Itch always manages to hit the nail right on the head with his lyrics. He's easily one of the best writers this country has to offer in any medium. The uke-led song is about showing somebody how much you love someone despite not having any money. The song paints a fantastic picture in my head of Itch standing outside his girl’s house playing the song before eventually being joined by a choir to help sing the end of the song. For a song to create such a strong image in my head is again some really impressive song writing. The song is actually beautiful.

The fourth song is named Opposable Thumbs and sees the band really amp the anger back up. The song is about human beings regressing rather than evolving. The line "Look How Far I've Come With My Opposable Thumb" is an ironic dig at modern culture. The King Blues accuse people of becoming greedy and selfish and only looking out for themselves on the track. Musically the song is again very catchy and you can imagine the track going down very well at a King Blues live show. Up next is a piano lead song called Words. On my first listen I was pleasantly surprised with how varied Off With Their Heads is; I was fully expecting a full-on angry and aggressive record and none of the sincere and lovely track that are also included. I really loved the simplicity of this song, really allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics of the song. The song is about the power of words and trying to find the right ones for the right occasion. This is a really interesting song for King Blues to do as it's far from punk and could really do well in the popular music charts if given the chance. Maybe this song might not go down so well with the hardcore punks but the King Blues have always been about doing their own thing so you have to respect them for that. Taxi Driver is a full speed ahead punk rock song. Musically it's hard and fast and Itch's rapping really amps the energy up. The song is about the life of a taxi driver and the political conversations that you often have with them. The song talks about the often racist and sexist views you will often find when you get chatting to your driver. Itch is on top form throughout the song with his snarling raps and snotty chorus. Off With Their Heads is completed with the song Pure Fucking Love. Things are switched up again with another stripped back acoustic song. The song starts with just Itch's vocals, his uke and some gentle drumming before Fruitbag and Jamie Jazz join the song with their acoustic guitars. Itch is in storytelling mode, talking about finding the special someone in your life. The lyric that goes "Because You Always Say Never Follow The Map, And You Always Say Be You That's Enough" is absolutely brilliant and is one of my favourite Itch lyrics. Which is really saying something!

I'm really intrigued to know how long The King Blues had their reformation planned before going public with it. If it all happened in a short space of time it really says a lot about the talent of the band to get a record of such quality written and recorded and put out in such a short space of time. Off With Their Heads has everything you would expect from a King Blues record, it has politics, it has love and it has smart, meaningful and catchy lyrics. This feels like The King Blues have never been away and I hope they don't go anywhere anytime soon. The country needs them.

Stream and download Off With Their Heads here:

Like The King Blues here: