The King Blues are a seasoned ska-punk band from Hackney, London about to release their fifth full length studio album, The Gospel Truth.
Introducing the album is The Truth, The Whole Truth, which is a collection of personal fan recordings responding to an open invitation from the band to talk about the last year of their lives. The band have picked out the downbeat and depressing samples before launching into the euphoric Heart of a Lion. It’s a middle finger to the flip-side of life, calling out the repeated hook “I come out swinging, swinging, with the heart of a lion!”. It’s a powerful start to the album.
Moving into Not Another Love Song, it’s familiar The King Blues material, raucous poetry through an infectious medium of gang-vocal infused, bass-loaded punk. Bullingdon Boys is another highlight track from the album, a furious tirade against the enriched minority through the infamous Bullingdon Boys club. The band’s impressive writing skill comes into play here, with seemingly limitless assonance and rhyme of ‘bullingdon’.
A regrettable element of the album – perhaps foretold in the artwork of Itch depicted as a deity and the name The Gospel Truth – is the tendency for the band to self-applaud. New Gods and especially The Truth Comes Out, a self-pitying ballad lamenting the treatment of Itch upon his death, have the band exonerating their position. It’s a bitter note that these previous everyman punks are setting themselves above others. “Only God can judge, and clearly he hates me” – fortunately this is not the case.
Moving into more neutral territory, Wish You Weren’t Here and American Don’t Want Me are more jubilant and rhythmic punk tunes. The latter is a politically charged humour on the ban on Itch entering America. Ghost of You is an anthemic song with a strong chorus “This house is haunted by the ghost, the ghost of us.”
Nike Town is a bitter criticism of the capitalist system as Itch raps through his malcontent. The song begins in a spoken word pattern in the style of the legendary What If Punk Never Happened? The song even includes a lyric brought forward from that song. It’s a nice nod, serving to enrich the track as one of the best on the album.
You’ve Taken My Spark is arguable the weakest song the album has to offer. Not only bland and repetitive, but the very idea of the song flies against any strength and momentum the album has built. If the spark is gone, why are we still here? And Nothing But The Truth is the bookend track to the album, paralleling the first. It has only a fraction of the effect of the first, however. It’s a shame that The Gospel Truth stutters to a disappointing close rather than going out in style.
In all, The Gospel Truth is a bittersweet package. Bitter, in fact, being a key term. There’s a subtle self-centredness permeating the album which disassociates the band from their listeners, and it is a bitter feeling. Where The Gospel Truth hits the right notes, it is inspiring. Heart of a Lion and Bullingdon Boys especially are euphoric, exultant punk songs capable of stirring even the most stolid listener. Perhaps not an album that will often run its full length, but there’s no denying that The Gospel Truth has some diamonds among the rough.