Words About Music
King Tuff “Black Moon Spell”
King Tuff wowed me, to an extent, back in 2012 with the release of his self-titled second album. His brand of abrasive, nasally garage rock harkens back to the ultimate underrated rock band, T. Rex. I’d be VERY surprised if King Tuff, as well as other contemporary garage rock acts like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, don’t find any influence from the excellent works of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. Anyway, when I first heard “King Tuff,” I was almost immediately turned off by vocalist (and sole member) Kyle Thomas’s voice. His voice is usually very up front and can get very nasally and tough to enjoy when it wants to be. After a couple listens, though, I grew to love the album. I haven’t heard it in a while, but I remember it fondly. It found a spot near the bottom of my Top 50 Albums of that year. The album cycle must be fulfilled, though, so King Tuff is back for his third album, his second for Sub Pop Records. “Black Moon Spell” is a bit more free-spirited and goofy than its predecessor, but it still shows off King Tuff as one of the more recognizable and significant acts in contemporary garage rock.
“Black Moon Spell” is a notably upbeat and loud album. It’s hard rockin’ and should be appreciated by fans of groups like Wavves and Sugar. It’s a saturated combo of power pop, garage rock, and psychedelic rock. It’s a ton of fun. Unfortunately, there’s a bit more style on this record than substance. It’s fun on the surface, but throughout the album’s 41 minutes, nothing ultimately interesting or climactic happens. It’s fairly stagnant, except when it dips in quality. This makes the album feel okay. At best, it starts out strong, but dwindles towards the second half. This can be King Tuff’s (and garage rock’s in general) biggest issue. When you’ve got a sound that maintains a certain format and method for nearly the whole thing, how do you keep it interesting?
I don’t have the answer for that, and neither does King Tuff, but I don’t think that’s what he’s after. At the end of the day, “Black Moon Spell” doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be taken very seriously. With songs on here like “I Love You Ugly,” it almost feels like Thomas is embracing his inner Ween or something. There’s elements of strange humor that bring to mind Mac DeMarco, but Thomas doesn’t have nearly as much charisma as a frontman as DeMarco does. This album can also be very uninteresting lyrically. I feel like at least Ty Segall tries to write lyrics that stick out, even up to his most recent hour-long album.
While “Black Moon Spell” isn’t a wow-worthy album like I once thought “King Tuff” was, it’s a fun summer record that came a couple months too late. I’ll listen to King Tuff albums that come out in the future and I’ll probably think they’re at least okay. And that’s what “Black Moon Spell” tends to be: okay. I’m more or less at ease with it. If you’re looking for a rollicking rock album to throw on in the car to keep you occupied for the week, give this one a spin. It’s the kind that I imagine garage rock fans shouldn’t have too much of a problem with. Grab a slice of pizza, soak up the last bit of sun that’s left, and let yourself enjoy what this album has to offer.
SCORE – 6.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – Black Moon Spell, Sick Mind, Headbanger, Magic Mirror, Madness, Black Holes in Stereo