Jason Wick, – vocals , guitar,
Craig Stevenson, – Keys,
Harry Wickham, – Drums,
Dougie Archer, – guitar, backing vocals,
Ben Beach, – Bass,,
Said To Me
No Friend Of Mine
Meth Mouth Blues
Prize Of A Life
A Lovers Tragedy
Rigor And Roll
Long Live The Quiet Man
Patience (Losing Sleep)
Till and Toil
Little Red Kings hail from Norfolk. UK. They play, according to their bio, music that is reminiscent of British classic blues rock bands of the 70’s with strong melodies and elements of modern alternative rock.
I would argue it’s way more than that. There are moments on ‘Propaganda Lie‘ for example where classic ZZ Top springs to mind. The choppy whiskey soaked, blues fuelled riffs and licks that Billy Gibbons would be proud of. Elsewhere there are moments that make me think “this is what it must have been like to have heard The Who or The Yardbirds for the first time in the 1960s.” That moment where you realise a sound is sufficiently different to make you stop whatever it was you were doing and focus on the music to the exclusion of everything else around you.
Back then, one of the singles from the album would have been enough to trigger a rush to the local vinyl store where a 2 side 45rpm single would have been purchased to be played at home on a record player that probably had a spike on it that allowed the owner to stack 10 or so singles to play in succession as one dropped onto the other as each song finished. Vinyl owners now will be horrified at the thought of something quite so archaic.
Modern record decks aside, music is delivered digitally as well and the MP3 files on my phone make for a glorious commute home through the Kentish countryside. It’s as if the music and the scenery was matched on Tinder.
Recorded in their own ‘Goat Pen Studios’, Callousis, again according to the band, a “rootsy,tootsy”, rocking , rolling ,modern take, on a classic rock, rhythm and blues album. Again I argue this does the band a disservice. There are moments of true greatness here that “rootsy tootsy” does not do justice to. Once opener Preludehas closed, the first track proper is Said To Me, an absolute belter that ZZ Top and Skynyrd clearly influenced.
Elsewhere tracks like Blackenand No Friend Of Mine offer thoroughly modern, blues infused, fuzz guitar driven songs that, when overlaid with some magnificent vocal work from Jason Wick, serve to remind us just how much good music is out there if only we are made aware of its existence. The album came to me via a friend and the band were a complete unknown at that point. With all of the digital methods of music delivery, how is it a band this good can simply pass you by. And that is the problem, there’s too much out there, too many bands with 101 different ways of pushing music out and to latch onto something new can be a tough thing indeed. Therefore the old approaches are those that work best, word of mouth, reviews like this one, getting to a gig early enough to see the support ‘because that’s what you should do…’ And thus, I’m now aware of Little Red Kings.
So by virtue of word of mouth, I drag my (almost) 13 year old daughter into the mix and ask her for an opinion. Eluding to good beats and other stock phrases, she then latches onto Blacken, not for the lyrics but for the way the song switches seamlessly between the louder sections and the almost silent segments, areas within the song that allow for a moment of contemplation before storming in with the guitars once more.
Chaperonesaw me focusing on the wonderful keys work from Craig Stevenson, asking Sophie what she thought of his playing only to find her fixated on the subtlest of guitar solos taking place at the back of the mix, drawing out it seems, long mournful, solitary notes to add a real haunting intro to the track.
The intro to Meth Mouth Blues had me digging out some classic Prince and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ to compare it to. It’s a really mellow tune with shades of David Gilmour’s guitar playing apparent throughout. The song is, according to my daughter, the perfect slow dance for a couple at the end of the evening. I did quiz her on how she knows this but the conversation was dodged as the next track began to play!
Prize Of A Life brings to mind REM on the intro before a truly modern British rock sound kicks in. Southern France, evoking memories of Suicide is Painless (The Theme from M.A.S.H) to which I get the “Oh my god, it’s just like it but slowed down”, raising a smile and the recognition that we now have a new TV show to watch from the beginning together. The differences of course disappear once Jason’s voice is let loose reminding us just what we are actually hear to listen to.
The rest of the album plays out in a similar fashion. “Why do you like it?” is answered with a simple “Because everything is just so catchy” from my picky daughter who, like all children these days has the attention span of a gnat. It’s reassuring therefore that we got through the whole album with her switched on and enjoying it.
Overall, I love it. The hints of nostalgia harking back to classics from bands of the late 60s and early 70s when studio trickery wasn’t available to mask a lack of talent is mixed with a modern southern rock, blues rock, classic rock sound that can clearly appeal to old and new. You want convincing…. check out Long Live The Quiet Man first.
This time around it seems fitting as is the end to the long chapter that Parry brought back some of those members. Guitars come from Stephan Lill (Vanden Plas), and Casy Grillo (Kamelot) performed all the drum parts.
So finally, if you are a Kiske fan – buy it! If you are hungry for more AOR fast food – buy it! But if you are tired of listening to the same Melodic Rock formula again and again then do yourself a favor and listen to other “real” Bands. Thumbs up for the great musicians and the perfect production, thumbs down for repetitive songwriting.