King’s X albums
One of the few truly accessible rock n’ roll metal acts, King’s X are above all a very independent group. Together since the mid 1980’s, the band has scoffed at the musical trends and meta-morphed dozens of times but remain fundamentally remained the same. The melodies can be pretty, the lyrics can be preachy, but above all the music is very entertaining. Every fan of the band knows what to expect with a new release and simultaneously never knows what to expect. Three very different personalities propel this band on: the preacher in Doug Pinnick, the lighthearted and stellar guitar of Ty Tabor, and the always reliable drumming of Jerry Gaskill. Not every release is a great record, so hopefully I can shed some light on what some of the best are, at least to start with. At least five of these albums are must haves for any fan of music though, and King’s X stands far above any “metal” acts you might think of from the late 80’s early 90’s. The band’s best songs do something most bands always hope to – defy easy categorization. Is it pop? Metal? Alt rock? Christian music? Soul? Listen to “Don’t Believe It”, “Fade”, “Pretend”, “Goldilox”, “A Box”, “Smudge”….decide for yourself! Just enjoy!
Band Members: Doug Pinnick – Bass, Vocals
Ty Tabor – Guitar, Vocals
Jerry Gaskill – Drums
Best Album: Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
Biggest Influences: Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, The Beatles
1988 – (4.5 / 5) − Out of the Silent Planet
1989 – (5 / 5) − Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
1990 – (3 / 5) − Faith Hope Love
1992 – (2.5 / 5) − King’s X
1994 – (4.5 / 5) − Dogman
1996 – (3.5 / 5) −Ear Candy
1998 – (4.5 / 5) − Tape Head
2000 – (4.5 / 5) − Please Come Home Mr. Bulbous
2001 – (3.5 / 5) − Manic Moonlight
2005 – (2 / 5) − Ogre Tones
2008 – (3.5 / 5) − XV
Out of the Silent Planet – (4.5 / 5)
The band’s first album fit into the metal scene of the eighties but also transcended it. It has “power ballads” and it has all out rockers. The thing is, the passion is truer with a band like King’s X and the melodies make them a force to be reckoned with. There is not a bad song in the first nine tracks in my opinion, though some stand out more than others. “Goldilox” is the band’s first defining song, a true metal ballad filled with heart; “King” mixes a catchy choir-like verse with grinding metal in the chorus; “Power of Love” sounds very religious and serious but comes across as meaningful rather than laughable; “Wonder” is probably my favorite song with its tempo changes reflecting Metallica and harmonies reflecting The Beatles. Pinnick makes a great lead vocalist and his lyrics come through asking great questions of Christian yearning. Songs like “Shot of Love” and “King” come across as actual power pop, which marks another facet to this interesting band. There are subtle variations about the music in that takes several listens to reveal and many of the songs are slower or more mid-tempo than one would expect, so the band differs from its contemporaries by taking it’s time- “speed metal” this ain’t. The only real bummer song is the closer “Visions”, which goes absolutely nowhere and is overlong. In all, Out of the Silent Planet is a great debut that marked a coming of the merging of two worlds – haunting melodies and super distorted guitars.
Greatest Songs – What Is This, Goldilox, Shot of Love, Wonder
Gretchen Goes to Nebraska – (5 / 5)
King’s X have created a spiritual, metallic masterpiece with their second record. Unique in its time, this is a record of rock n’ roll that is very dark, moody, and catchy. “Over My Head” is the band’s defining song, and with good reason- it is a memorable soul-metal spiritual about the greatest thing there is- music! Other songs on here range from soft ballads like “Summerland”, “The Burning Down” and “The Difference”, to anthems like “Fall On Me”, my personal favorite “Don’t Believe It”, and also questions about life like “Mission”, “Pleiades” and “Send a Message”. Gretchen has a great mixture of softer songs and hard rockers, and the melodies on here are unforgettable. Lyrics set the mood on songs like “Mission”, with its talk about hypocrites in the church, and “Pleiades” with talk about existence but creates more in the dark context of the atmospheric music then any words ever could; one truly feels transported to outer space in this tune. All of the before mentioned songs build upon Out of the Silent Planet’s mix of pop and heaviness to a better result, each song is more consistent and more full (not to say that the debut was a bad album, far from it). It is interesting to note this albums influence on the upcoming grunge scene also, as one listen to “Out of the Silent Planet” will easily recall Alice in Chains. “Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something” is the sole stumble, the song that sticks out like a sore thumb to me. Overall, Gretchen is a great listen and a very spiritual one; it creates a world where you feel like you are traveling through space hearing angelic voices that I…cannot explain. Pop metal at its best, this is the template for future King’s X records and the pinnacle of their career.
Greatest Songs – Over My Head, Pleadies, Don’t Believe It, I’ll Never Be The Same
Faith Hope Love – (3 / 5)
Kind of a failure after Gretchen greatness, but not a big one. Where the last album got a great mixture of lyrics, melodies, and music, this one only gets some of those attributes and not on the same song, if that makes any sense. Take the opening song for example, “We are Finding Out Who We Are”. They kind of just say that phrase over and over again with no memorable song there. The two following songs though, are easily the best on here. “It’s Love” could go on forever, it is that good of an idea! It also has maybe the best King’s X chorus of them all, say it with me: “It’s looooove, that holds it all together, I just had to let you know!” “I’ll Never Get Tired of You” is just as good, with Doug Pinnick saying “never never” oh so smoothly. The rest of the album has it’s problems, though. The songs range from good to mediocre, and it’s kind of personal preference as to which ones are good. Nothing on here is horrible, but songs like “Six Broken Soldiers”, “Legal Kill”…. I mean they are pretty good, but nothing special. “Mr. Wilson” (what is with the freaky kid voices?), “Talk to You”, “Everywhere I Go” and “Fine Art of Friendship” all suck though in my opinion, and the title track would be good if it wasn’t freakin’ nine minutes long! Overall, the album is over an hour long, and it could use some trimming AND some better ideas. King’s X should take a break and re-group ideas, before they fall apart. Not that your average album is that bad a listen of course, but King’s X are capable of more consistency. Oh! I almost forgot “Moanjam”, their ultimate live song……I think it’s better live, where as “We Were Born to be Loved” kicks ass on record and live; just try and memorize that prog-rock ending.
Greatest Songs – It’s Love, We Were Born to Be Loved, I’ll Never Get Tired of You
King’s X – (2.5 / 5)
A lot of fans swear this one is their favorite, but I have never dug it outside of a couple of key tracks. Unlike the records preceding it, it comes off as very dated.
Greatest Songs – Not Just For The Dead, Prisoner
Dogman – (4.5 / 5)
Despite any doubters, King’s X’s 5th record (that’s hard to say out loud) remakes the band with a grungier sound, but also better melodies and renewed confidence. It is hard to explain in words of course, but this is easily the band’s best album consistency wise since 1989’s Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. It’s not as though King’s X and Faith Hope Love were experimental ideas gone bad or anything, the band just had gotten stale and formulaic. They knew it too, all it takes is one listen to this record to hear their renewed vigor. Dogman is simply not in the same universe as the two albums that preceded it. “Shoes” is a weird, staccato blues song; “Fool You” goes back to being ultra-spiritual in a way the band was in the 80’s; “Human Behavior” is odd time signatures mixed with that new, grungy rock sound; “Pretend” mixes it all together producing perhaps for the album’s signature song, profoundly heavy while also being pleasantly surprising in chord structure at times. “Pretend” may be the most known song but it is at odds for best tune on the album with my other favorite, “Don’t Care”- a melodic, metallic grind of a song that is easily one of the group’s more underrated jams. All great! The album is a solid listen up to the first twelve songs (love the Husker Du homage, “Go to Hell”), faltering a little with the mediocre “Pillow” but then bringing back the rock with an ace cover of “Manic Depression” that shows the doubters how good this band is in the mid-90’s. This is probably the band’s most popular album, but it is no sell out- it is a rejuvenation and it is glorious. Perhaps it could be a little shorter; the “heaviness” does get to me sometimes but that is a minor complaint. The future looks hopeful for one of the world’s more underrated bands.
Greatest Songs – Don’t Care, Pretend, Dogman, Human Behavior
Ear Candy – (3.5 / 5)
On first listen, it is easy to hear that Ear Candy is a transitional album. The first time i listened to it I was misled to what the core of the record would sound like because “The Train” is always known as the “best” song. Very generic, and what the hell are they even talking about on that song? “Leave all your bags and tighten up your metal belt/You leave us all behind, you start to feel the pain.” Those lyrics make no sense! There are at least five better songs on here, and they don’t sound like that. Those are “What am I Gonna Do”, “A Box”, “Looking for Love” (great metal pop), and “Mississippi Moon”. And oh yeah, “Run” is pretty good. With these songs, the band pushes their sound forward in to the realm of melodies that are friendly without losing any of their artistic integrity. The remainder is not so good, and way to happy and almost giddy for this band, similar to how Dogman was too metallic. They are great when they mix the two sounds into a polished blend, but the difference is this is mostly pop and the music is just not up to snuff. Lyrics aren’t too great either on Ear Candy; “Fathers” is hilariously bad on its own. But about half of the album’s songs are great, and it remains an interesting listen for the die hard fans to seek out. Fitting album title too, it sums the record as background music that is occasionally interesting but mostly forgettable.
Greatest Songs – A Box, Mississippi Moon, What Am I Gonna Do, Looking for Love
Tape Head – (4.5 / 5)
“What a breath of fresh of air!” That is what I think every time I listen to Tape Head. It is the perfect description because the band seems like they have recovered and had a huge weight lifted from off their shoulders. It is a record of revelations, of coming to terms with changing life styles, and of limitless possibilities. Whether heavy or light, each song has a strong undercurrent of pathos. Ty Tabor is alive on “Ocean” and “Fade” singing more confidently than ever. Pinnick shows his dark side on the demented “Happy”, the haunting “Mr. Evil”, and the pulsating “Groove Machine” (an overrated song perhaps, but still a good album opener). Revealing lyrical themes do come within the music and it is different than the soul searching usually found on King’s X records. “Cupid” for example sounds very happy with harmonies abound but speaks of how “cupid shot the wrong guy”, speaking either of a lost love or a new found sexuality. “Higher than God” and other songs speak of a lost Christianity in Pinnick, and while that is not a bad thing merely a different thing, it is very noticeable as lyrics like “he chases our lovers away” and “over and over again, I let you down” speak of a loss of faith. All of these conflicting lyrical themes combined with the usual mix of pop/alt rock/metal make for one of the band’s most profound records. I would complain a little about the lack of consistency at times, with “Ono”, “Hate You”, and “World” being lame songs peppered throughout the record. However, ending with a live improvisation from hell called “Walter Bela Farkas”, Tape Head seals the fact that King’s X are one of the most uncompromising bands the late 90’s had to offer, and this is one of their finest records.
Greatest Songs – Over and Over, Cupid, Fade, Mr. Evil
Please….Mr Baulbous – (4.5 / 5)
Religion and religious themes have always been important to King’s X, but it’s important to note that whatever religion any members of the band switch too, their records are still a spiritual experience. So at the dawn of the new millennium we have the band continuing to be rejuvenated for the third time (the others being 1989’s Gretchen Goes to Nebraska and 1994’s Dogman) and how are they different? Well, they have gotten much weirder. “Fish Bowl Man” has a poetry reading in the middle of it; “Julia” transforms from a ballad into a metal fest then back to ballad again (it’s pretty funny and clever though); and “Smudge” is actually demonic in the vocal delivery. This is King’s X at their best though, a great treasure trove of sounds. Listen to the ethereal “Charlie Sheen”; the dual vocal delivery of “Marsh Mellow Field”; the contrasting verse/chorus of “She’s Gone Away” and tell me this style has been done better somewhere else by some other band! Mr. Baulbous has a good flow to it too, which Tape Head lacked by being packed with perhaps too many ideas. It does falter a bit at the end as the two closing songs are devoted to the suite “Move Me Pt.1 &2” that aren’t up to the standards of the rest of the record, and the side one closing ballad “When Your Scared” is a dud. For fans of King’s X though, this represents another necessary, major shift in overall sound and is a great pop metal record. Perhaps the band’s most content record in their discography, the most “at peace” if you will. My expectations for this were not high, as its reputation is as one of the band’s weaker efforts, but if listened to with open ears you may find that the opposite is actually true. Please Come Home Mr. Baulbous is easily King’s X most underrated album, worth owning and cherishing.
Greatest Songs – Smudge, Marsh Mellow Field, Charlie Sheen, She’s Gone Away
Manic Moonlight – (3.5 / 5)
Manic Moonlight is to Mr. Baulbous as Ear Candy was to Dogman, an even poppier version of the previous album. No surprise then that this record is almost identical to Ear Candy, even though it is quite a bit shorter. The band’s 9th record has the help of Acid Music, a homemade kind of recording software (that I myself have used before) and the album as a whole has that homemade feel to it. The tone of Manic Moonlight is actually not manic at all, but calm and relaxed. The band tries out a more tribal and rhythmic sound to usually good effect. The record is kind of uneven, some songs are boring like “Manic Moonlight” and “Static”, some are pretty good like “Beleive”, “Yeah”, and “Jenna”, and some are new King’s X classics. “False Alarm” is maybe their best ballad in years; “Skeptical Winds” is a longer version using the weird voice he used in “Smudge”; “Vegetable” is actually a personal funk rock song that works very well. The last song is my favorite though, “Water Ceremony”, the best King’s X song ever! Not really. Most songs tend to drift by harmlessly on this record and they keep everything easily digestible and accessible. Manic Moonlight maybe their most accessible record to date.
Greatest Songs – Skeptical Winds, False Alarm, Vegetable, Jenna
Orge Tones – (2 / 5)
Perhaps the release of a live record in 2004, a rehashed b-sides (2003’s Black Like Sunday), and a reprise of “Goldilox” on this record (originally on the band’s first), should be a sign they are out of ideas.
Greatest Songs – Hurricane, Freedom
XV – (3.5 / 5)
Not the band’s Fifteenth record (their twelfth actually), XV is a comeback after the falter of 2005’s Ogre Tones. In tone kind of a mix of Tape Head and Dogman with a little bit of self-titled thrown in for good measure, the album is a nice summation of everything the band is known for twenty years into their album-making career. It has punchy spirituals (“Go Tell Somebody”, “Pray”, “Alright”), aching ballads (“Blue”, “Julie”-sung by Jerry Gaskill!, “I Just Want to Live”), and metallic stompers that the band excels at (“Broke”, “Move”). In many ways, the band drops their pop-metal sound that they began on Ear Candy and perfected on Mr. Bulbous and that may have been the right idea if what they were going for is a return to form. This is not among the bands best albums, a couple of ideas bog the album down – “Rocket Ship” and “Stuck” are among the worst songs/lyrics the band has attempted – but nothing really stands in the way of the momentum of the better songs, as the album definitely improves in quality toward the middle and end. In fact it is perhaps that ability that is the most impressive of King’s X; that with just three instruments – guitar, bass, drums – the band is able to craft so many styles and sound but still be able to have a recognizable sound. If it is indeed the band’s final record, they do their fans proud with this collection. XV shows off all sides of King’s X sound alive and well and most of all, completely indifferent to the fads and fashions of their time. They stand out in the crowd.
Greatest Songs – Broke, Move, Alright, I Just Want to Live