Glam rock is known for its costumes — a genre synonymous with “glitter” would inevitably be just as much about the showmanship and theatrics of a performance as the music itself, and it proved that sense of parity in acts such as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and T. Rex. However, the genre has also been distilled to a form more associated with the forward-thinking classics that were eventually recognized as our artistic standards, namely The Velvet Underground. It grew and split and grew and split into what we know today to be our diverse set of rock denominations — surf, punk, grunge, gothic, math rock, stoner rock, and, to a certain extent, indie rock and pop, among others.
In Black Moon Spell, King Tuff (also known as Kyle Thomas) presents the definitively glam sound in garage rock makeup, leaving every melody and riff in its distorted, coarse form. The successor to King Tuff’s eponymous debut record (2008), Black Moon Spell is a set of fully-sharpened rock tunes and small experimental interludes. It’s a personality statement that stirs elements of humor as well as an almost sarcastic sort of insistent punk. King Tuff certainly knows what he is, but in clever ways he makes us question what exactly about him we understand, and in the end, it’s not much.
There are distinct highlights of the album, as well as songs that don’t quite make musical sense. Among the great are “Rainbow’s Run,” “Magic Mirror,” and “Black Moon Spell,” which all meld classic rock structure to sneering, dark tones. Some of the poppier, more accessible songs are “Headbanger” and “Eddie’s Song,” the latter of which is a well-chosen conclusion to the album. One of the most intriguing songs, however, is “Eyes of the Muse.” Although it doesn’t begin with as appealing a hook as the majority of Black Moon Spell (hooks seem to be one of King Tuff’s fortes), the track’s developments ultimately make its length pay off for the listener. Initially its structure is not radically more imaginative than others on the record, but the reintroduction of the first melody in “Eyes”‘ final moments make it so.
Some listeners will be turned off by short, whiny songs interspersed throughout the album; it’s not hard to admit that “I Love You Ugly,” “Black Holes In Stereo,” and “Radiation” are difficult to listen to. But if we take songs like those in the context of the entire piece, we recognize that that’s just how King Tuff is. He’s going to be that guy who puts a fly in your soup. Thomas is certainly not one to shy away from the rambunctious, slapdash spirit through which garage and various forms of punk are thriving today.
Ultimately, King Tuff’s signature grimy guitar sound and expertly paired solos and melodies make Black Moon Spell an exciting listen. The record is out via Sub Pop on September 23; his tour comes to San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall October 29, which we expect to be a very fun show.
Article by Darius Kay