King Tuff’s new, self-titled album, which varies between a fast-paced rock ‘n’ roll and bluesy psychedelic tempo, might sound overproduced compared to his 2009 release Was Dead. But at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach on the day after Independence Day, every guitar flourish and polished harmony on the album was perfectly replicated live.
Sub Pop has concentrated on giving King Tuff the subtle nuance it deserved—like the muted, solo intro on “Alone and Stoned.” It seems like it should sound best while getting high around the house with headphones in, but the driving beat was more suitable in the middle of a sweaty crowd.
In 2009, Tuff’s first LP Was Dead came unexpectedly out of backwoods Vermont. Because it was so unique, it became an instant psych-glam-garage rock ‘n’ roll classic. The opening rhythm guitar on “Dancing on You” would have you pounding the floor, and the phone ringing on the extra catchy “Connection” brought to mind the Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone.” On most vinyl copies, the grooves of “Sun Medallion” surely ended up too worn to play.
Kyle Thomas—the King’s real name—has since moved from Vermont to Los Angeles and has blurred the line between himself and King Tuff, his rock ‘n’ roll persona. Tonight, he was relaxed and jovial on stage, wearing a ripped tie-dye t-shirt and long scraggly hair. (He looks a little like Nobunny.)
In true post-Fourth of July spirit, King Tuff and his backing band (with Tuff bassist Magic Jake and half of Audacity) started off with their “Anthem,” which had more to do with a mug-swinging Irish-pub beat than anything stars and stripes. They barreled through “Baby Just Break” and “Keep on Movin’,” which had the crowd doing just that, and people were dancing especially hard to the A-side off their 7” “Wild Desire” put out by Suicide Squeeze this year.
Despite the “No Dancing And No Circle Pit” sign, someone crowd surfed and bodies were thrown around for “Bad Thing,” their shortest and catchiest song on the album. King Tuff almost always sings in the same nasal, nerdy timbre, but really belts it out for the “I’m a Bad, Bad, Bad Thing!” chorus.
He closed with two-minute psych masterpiece “Sun Medallion,” while the actual sun medallion was glistening around his neck. Listening to all the tracks off the new album, it was great to end with this seminal song from Was Dead. In the end, the line between new and old was blurred, and all was good.
Openers Audacity showcased their pop-punk sound with songs like “Punk Confusion,” which is on their sophomore album, Mellow Cruisers, out now. They even played a song from a promised 3rd album, which slowed everything down a bit and showed some of their talent for songwriting.
In the middle slot, CRAZY BAND played to a mostly indifferent audience. It was a crazy bad six-piece band made of equal parts X-Ray Spex, Crass and Kleenex siphoned through a beer bong, which the band had obviously done before the show. [Gently Dissenting Ed. Note: they rule!] Although when one of the four guitarists flipped out two middle fingers and the singer insouciantly started oi! oi! oi!-ing, it brought out some smiles.