KING’S X: Three Sides of One
King’s X. A band of under-the-radar legendary proportions. If there ever was such a thing. This band changed the music world, but not in the same way as, say Nirvana did. They sold thousands of albums, not millions. This is an almost obligatory or cliche thing to say about this amazing band. But I mean it from my heart. But maybe it’s a good thing they never blew up. Maybe Sam Taylor was right? God forbid.
Doug Pinnick once confided in me and has said in interviews since that the band’s former manager did not let the label use the uber great tune “Goldilox” as a single. He apparently said he feared the band becoming too big and too popular too fast. Perhaps there’s wisdom in that thinking, but I can’t help but curse that decision. “Goldilox” is perhaps my favorite song of all-time and it’s a darn shame that the rest of the world can’t join hands and hear its greatness along with us King’s X fans.
This, however, is an album review of the new album, Three Sides of One. Let’s get on with it, shall we?
I find myself most interested in their lyrics. The lyrics from these writers has captivated my imagination and thrilled my theological curiosity. Here’s a band that has understood both the mystery and the mighty love of God. For years their poetic insight has made me smile from deep inside.
Have the members of King’s X lost their faith? Have they walked away from the love that was theirs to keep? Many armchair quarterbacks have so callously spoken (or, to be accurate nowadays, typed) of the members’ faith as if they somehow owned these people and could tell the world or their opponents how these three thought. This always bugged me about conversations of someone else’s faith.
I also felt offended that someone else was talking about my friends. I’ve often felt like, “Okay, let’s talk about your mom, bro.”
Granted, the members of this band have spoken openly about their faith, their opinions of Christianity, and the scene they played within while the support band for Morgan Cryar back in the ’80s. When someone goes on record and states what they think about a certain subject, those with ears to hear are certainly allowed the ethics of ettiquette to discuss the matter in public. It’s just all gone so beyond that in my opinion. It just doesn’t seem right to make conclusions about another person’s heart, mind, or soul. I think that’s called judgement.
Anyways, on to this album. From the title alone, this one squarely fits within the King’s X universe. Three Sides of One. We could discuss the theology of that concept for hours, much like Faith Hope Love or Out of the Silent Planet. However, the lyrics could also have been lifted from the Sam Taylor canon of this trio’s lyrics.
“Where are we now?
Is this the end of the wortld,
Or a new beginning.
Calling all saviors,
And I’m shouting at God,
Oh won’t you come and save us,
Don’t you think we need you now.”
Bono once said something like, “I’m only interested in two kinds of music: those running to God and those running away from God.” Someone send Bono the entire King’s X catalog. I wonder if he’s aware of this band? If U2 goes on another stadium tour and picks an avant-garde, up-and-coming band to support them, how I wish they’d pick this one.
In looking at present day King’s X lyrics, one should be aware of the shift in apparent theological thought that has taken place in the last 35-plus years. You’ll notice both ends of the spectrum here – talking to God as well as openly wondering:
“Now the prophet of doom is shouting,
Something about a thief in the night,
Oh I have this question,
What if the truth was a lie?”
There you have it. Faith and doubt. Two extremes, but not disconnected from one another. While we like to have our faith resting on a rock solid foundation, sometimes questions plague the mind. If you’re a living, breathing human being, you might relate or even confess that you’ve had doubts.
The brave souls among us – like C.S. Lewis – seemed like they weren’t afraid to face the doubts. They didn’t demonize the doubters, but embraced them as brothers on the same journey as us. It’s easy to want the doubters to shut up. Satan himself used doubt with Eve and even in his temptations for Jesus. They both talked to the devil. One fell and the Other stood firm.
Jesus didn’t exactly say, “I rebuke you! You’re a liar. The devil himself. You’re an idiot. I command you to be silent.” No, instead he answered him directly and spot on with the Words of God.
So, I’m not afraid to approach and read lyrics that might not paint the same picture I see of the universe. But I peer inside the lyric sheet of the new King’s X album, thinking and wondering (what I’m going to find).
The opening track, “Let it Rain,” says:
“So let it rain, to wash the fear away
So let it rain, to wash the fear away
So let it rain, wash it, wash it away.”
The next song is, interestingly enough, called “Flood Pt. 1.”
“Maybe the time has come they say,
Waters rising gonna drown us all away.
I used to say that all we needed was love,
Now I’m thinking that,
What we need is a flood.”
I watched an interview on the record label (Inside Out)’s YouTube channel, which mentioned the biblical flood as a great reset (killing off most of the planet and starting anew). That seems to be reflected in the lyrics in both the first two songs. A harsh idea. Thank the Good Lord for the rainbow (promise not to flood the earth with water again).
“Nothing But The Truth” seems kind of straight-forward. Like many previous songs, these lyrics could be addressed to a person or to a diety:
“I want to hear from you, not me.”
“Give It Up” seems like a bold declaration like, “I’m not going away,” like “I’m gonna stick around, until they put me under. I am is all I know, ride it out until it’s over.”
“All God’s Children” seems to almost revel in that flood theme:
“It came in the water
It came with the flood
It seeped into everything
That we couldn’t be rid of
We bathed in the fountains
And we played in the mud
We breathed as it rotted
It got into our blood
“And all God’s children kept believing
All God’s children believed anyway.”
It’s an interesting commentary on humanity. The second verse seems to delve into some darkness, like something bad had happened:
“It was down in the basement
You were up on your throne
And while vegetation wasted
We were left picking the bones
But nobody complained
Fact they said it was right
So they all lit up torches
And marched into the night.”
That last imagery brought up reminds me of the popular notion about the Salem witch trials (ignorant people using fear to banish, punish, imprison, or hurt the ones they don’t understand).
“Take The Time” reads like an intense survival story of someone or something close to death, hoping and praying they “make it through the night.”
“Festival” is a fun tune that kinda stands out in the King’s X catalog as perhaps the lone “fun and only fun” song. Musically it rings with the positivity of the lyrics. “Let’s throw a festival.” Interesting tidbit thrown in for thought: “What’s the worst maybe somebody dies.”
“Swipe Up” borrows a modern theme from our smartphones. I also like the borrowed phrase “black the sky” from the Dogman album.
“Holidays” seems to take on the “living for the weekend” mentality that Loverboy sang so joyfully about in the ’80s. It’s tempered with the fact that “it’s sad to think of how time flies.” I wonder what the meaning is behind the reply:
“But then again
This world has little but the ordinary
To satisfy the lies.”
What are the lies? hmmmm. And it makes me wonder.
“Watcher” is another unusual song clouded in mystery. It speaks of something in the back room, hidden from the light, something stirring in the closet… The final verse seems to offer hope that juxtaposes the darkness therein:
“Hang on watcher
The dog will get you if you go too far
Hang on watcher
The truth will come
And find you where you are.”
Could that be a bit of wisdom or observation that the truth prevails and/or we will find out in the end?
“She Called Me Home” conjurs visions of maybe death, but what does one reader know of the poetry he reads? We’re only guessing at metaphors and riddles. I guess that’s part of the fun with creative artists like King’s X. They’re not just young lads making a new sound out of Houston anymore. In fact, these three guys seemingly came out of the gate as seasoned veterans. They know their way around riffs, rhythms, and harmonies. They also seem as peers to their legendary inspirators known as the Beatles when it comes to lyric writing.
Could these older gents be contemplating their own mortality? “Every Everywhere” ends the album by bringing up heaven, but repeats the phrase:
“The whole world is crying, for love
It’s hard to look around and not notice suffering on this planet. It makes the poet cry and the readers of the poet cry, too. The whole world is indeed crying for love.
King’s X does not need our permission to explore the world around them. And thank goodness they have continued to do so.
To borrow another line from the band, on this album I hear more heaven than hell.
What about the music?
The first thing that jumps out at me is the straight-up rock jam of the lead-off track (and first single), “Let It Rain.” It reminds me of a song that’s always bugged me a little bit. Call me off, but the opening riffs to “Over My Head” always bothered me some. While not bad, the jam is so straight-up and typical. “It’s not progressive enough” my inverted simplistic opinion cries out. It’s a headbanger, to be sure, but I’ve always love the sideways musical elements the band brought to the table. But that’s what makes the song good, though. It stands out from the rest and delivers without having to go sideways or in an odd or changing time signature. If they’re truly a “musician’s band,” they also need to excel at the expected and the standard. They do and they repeat this successfully in “Let It Rain.” But don’t dismiss it as simplistic. The twisting, flanged-out chords coaxed out by guitarist Ty Tabor at the song’s opening are anything but simplistic. The stretching solos in the bridge are pretty tripped out and cool, too.
The album features King’s X with most all of its extremities – the harsh hardness of its rock and the soft plushness of its balladry. The only King’s X album that comes to mind in comparison is Ear Candy. Funny how the psychedelic artwork here hearkens back to that album as well.
My overall impressions on the first few passes over this album is I notice the straightforwardness and sonic brightness of it all. It takes numerous listens to pick up the crafty progressive and innovative elements that show up frequently. They’re just more subtle, I guess.
“Give It Up” nods back a little bit to the Sly and the Family Stone funk influence the band hasn’t done too often. I think I even heard a contribution from Wally Farkas (aka Yoko Ono) screeching in this song.
“Take the Time” slows things down with lead vocals that sound like Jerry Gaskill to these ears and features some plush-ness of multi-instrumentation near the end. “Nothing But the Truth” is another tender tune with lead vocalist Doug Pinnick leading the way. Musically it reminds me of an old Gospel tune that I hear prisoners singing during chapel (Shirley Caesar’s “Starting All Over Again”).
“Swipe Up” features that great KX low-end we’ve all grown to love (and bands emulate). The harmonized vocals sounds great, too. The key the band sings during the verses of “Flood, Pt. 1” is surprising to me. It’s higher than I’d expect to hear from these down-tuned masters.
“She Called Me Home” has a great change or bridge section near the end that jams tastefully. Up to that point it’s kind of a mellow tune with Jerry once again handling the lead vocals. He runs with “Holidays,” too, making three songs as lead vocalist on this album. A long way from his “Six Broken Soldiers” cameo.
Ty leads us on a fast-paced and positive-sounding “Festival.” It’s cool to hear Doug Pinnick adding echoed vocals. The guitar solo has a really cool tone. Ty also handles the lead vocals for the mellow meets Sabbath riff tune called “All God’s Children.” Great dynamics on that one. It could be my first favorite off the album. And the heaviness and monster tone of that riff? This song could easily have been on the Paranoid album.
“Every Everywhere” has an interesting plodding feel and vocal delivery of the two-syllable word, “Heaven.” It’s not too far from a Polyphonic Spree choral feel. It stops on a dime and the album is over.
Let’s hope it’s not another 14 years before the next King’s X album.
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