Length: 48 minutes
The best album from one of my favorite Rock bands.
I’ve always liked KING’S X. After various levels of commercial success and failure through the 80s and early 90s, culminating in the brilliant, but commercial bomb, ‘Ear Candy’, Atlantic Records promptly dropped KING’S X and moved on to more “viable” artists. I was sure the band was done.
Back in the mid 90s, without internet, music fans had to rely on trade magazines for information on our favorite artists. And bands that had lost their commercial shine like KING’S X were hard to get info on.
Though many credited KING’S X and their groove sound as a start to what became known as grunge, grunge’s appeal had worn off by 1996. The big labels were dropping artists left and right. Smaller indie rock/metal labels like CMC, Metal Blade, Roadrunner, Nuclear Blast, Noise, and Century Media were all just getting their start.
One day while browsing my favorite local CD shop, I found ‘Tape Head’ just sitting there. I had all but given up on ever hearing these guys again and here they were. On Metal Blade Records, no less. After an earlier attempt at Metal on the commercially successful, but less melodic and ultimately less “King’s X” sounding ‘Dogman’, I was skeptical of this band’s ability to retain their classic Beatles’ style melodies and vocal harmonies within a more metallic stage.
Holy crap! Was I completely misguided in my lack of faith. ‘Tape Head’ was not only the best KING’S X album they would ever do, it was one the best albums I would EVER hear, anywhere, anytime. These songs, nearly 15 years later still get rotation even with my ever-increasing catalog of music. I will never abandon this perfect collection of funk, metal, rock, and pop EVER. It is infused into my soul.
With the worries of trying to appease commercial interests now gone–working inside a record label that would let them be as angry, as reflective, as joyful, as easygoing, as eclectic, as anything they wanted to be.
Bassist Doug Pinnick had been this band’s primary lead vocalist for much of their 80s and 90s career. Although guitarist Ty Tabor would provide occasional lead duties, his voice was mostly used for harmonizing. Thankfully, on ‘Tape Head’ BOTH get a chance to shine. Pinnick can give the harder, funkier tracks that extra kick, while Tabor adds that more personal/emotional alternative pop touch to his tracks. This vocal variety helps make KING’S X and this album so very special.
The entire band takes songwriting credit for every song. It really seems that each member of this power-trio does put “just a little bit of soul” into these songs. None of the tracks are less than great. And there’s at least six that give me shivers whenever I start to hear them. They have that much emotional power–right to my core. A band singing and playing with everything they’ve got.
I often ignore lyrical content–being a Metal fan I have to if I want to continue to enjoy this genre. But KING’S X have always put a lot into their simple and deeply personal lyrics and themes. And on ‘Tape Head’ they tap into subjects that not only inspire them, but genuinely ANGER them. A tradition they would continue on future releases. This anger gives them an urgency, an intensity and rawness I rarely heard from them before this 1998 album.
However, they still hold onto that trademark optimism and joy that keeps the faithful fans coming back. An almost instant cure for whatever emotional turmoil ails you. Like, well, ‘Ear Candy’.
I’m going to make a simple list of those absolute perfect tracks, in no particular order and with no particular details or personal insights. They are absolutes and need to be experienced by each person without prejudice or preconception. Besides, other than calling them rousing and profound I would have a hard time pigeonholing their sound.
“Hate You”, “Ocean”, “Fade”, “Ono”, “Little Bit of Soul”, “Higher Than God”, and “Over and Over”. Oh crap!–that’s seven. OK, make that SEVEN shiver-inducing songs.
Thick, groovy guitars and great nasally sweet vocals from Ty Tabor, funk slapping bass and vocals from Doug Pinnick, and pounding odd-time precision drums and harmonizing vocals from Jerry Gaskill. The best example of a Power Trio, alongside greats like RUSH, ZZ TOP, and THE TEA PARTY.
If you’ve never heard KING’S X find a copy of this album, it’s the perfect introduction. Much of their remaining catalog is good, some of it great. But as they often experimented with different styles and sounds, this album is probably the most accessible for a straight ahead Hard Rock/Metal fan. A MUST OWN!