It should come as no surprise to people who know me or follow my blog, but I was a huge fan of King's X throughout the 1990s. The sublime mixture of Ty Tabor's searing guitar work, Doug Pinnick's thunderous bass tone and booming vocals, Jerry Gaskill's solid foundation on percussion, and their combined Beatlesque harmonies yielded a one-of-a-kind sound that quickly gained attention for this trio from Southern Texas. Over the years, I've transcribed a few classic pieces from King's X for my guitar students, and I've shared my transcriptions of the King's X songs Black Flag and Lost in Germany in previous blogs.
It should, therefore, also be of little surprise to anyone who knows me that my interest was piqued when I heard that King's X recently released a new single, which was their first studio offering after a fourteen-year absence. You can listen to their new single at the following URL.
I have to admit - I was far from impressed by this new single. This track sounded like something that King's X could have released years ago; it was as if the band hadn't bothered to improve their songwriting skills during their lengthy hiatus. In hindsight, I don't think that it's enough to say that "I was far from impressed." I think it is a far better statement to say that I was disappointed.
From my perspective, King's X was at their musical peak when Sam Taylor was producing them, and the Billboard chart history for King's X reinforces my sentiments. Taylor, as many King's X fans might recall, also produced Galactic Cowboys, Atomic Opera, and the "Conspiracy No. 5" album for Third Day (which was their second-best album in my opinion). Once Taylor was out of the picture, King's X produced themselves for several albums, where they sounded like they forgot how to function as a band; their playing was worse, their vocals were worse, their lyrics were worse, and each album contained tracks that were literally nothing but noise. In my estimation, King's X is the poster child for why bands should not produce themselves.
If you've ever watched the excellent documentary series from PBS called "Soundbreaking," it does a great job of explaining how it is the role of a producer to push artists out of their comfort zones and challenge them to try new things. That is why after 40 years bands like Rush continued to change producers on each album; Rush wanted new challenges and a fresh perspective. Cycling back to King's X, after several self-produced albums they had the good sense to team up with Michael Wagener as a producer for a couple albums, but King's X didn't change for the better, and this new single sounds like it has nothing original to offer. Unfortunately, this track sounds like the same old drivel that King's X has been churning out for decades.
It's a shame that a fourteen-year absence doesn't appear to have added anything to King's X's talent pool.
As a point of trivia, I should mention that I bumped into Sam Taylor at a show back in 1997. Third Day was doing an acoustic set at a store in the Dallas area to support their "Conspiracy No. 5" album, and I was standing off to the side next to a guy who was a few years older than me. We got to talking, and when he offered his name I immediately said, "You mean the Sam Taylor who produced King's X and Galactic Cowboys?" Taylor looked at me and said, "You must be a guitarist." When I asked, "How could you tell?," he responded, "Because no one listens to King's X except guitarists."