The King Blues – Long Live The Struggle (Released 02/07/2012 through Transmission)
A band releasing an album on the back of a relatively mysterious and unexpected split was always destined to be an intriguing prospect. Will The King Blues deliver a rabble rousing, fist pumping send off worthy of their legacy, or will they slip off un noticed in to punk-rock insignificance? Truthfully, they do neither however it’s difficult to feel that Long Live The Struggle is going to be the classic that Itch and co. will be remembered for.
Long Live The Struggle finds The King Blues veering ever further away from their musical roots and in true punk spirit they have decided to up the experimentation they teased with on Punk & Poetry. The most striking evidence of this is on Can’t Bring Me Down, which features Jason Butler of Letlive fame. The chorus is the heaviest thing they’ve ever created with Jason screaming his guts out to a dubstep backing, whilst the verses showcase Itch’s rapping talent. This is a standout track on the album, but by no means is that a particularly good thing.
The track sounds rushed, messy and relatively predictable considering its promisingly bonkers premise. One can’t help but feel with a little more thought this could have been the albums shining moment. The main issue with this King Blues album is what it’s lacking in comparison to every other TKB album: a human heart. What set The King Blues apart has always been the love that emanated from every play of Under The Fog, Punk & Poetry and Save the World, Get The Girl.
Long Live The Struggle doesn’t live up to this legacy and unfortunately it never really grabs the listeners attention in so doing losing some of the endearing charm that peppered their previous releases. There are moments in Power To The People that reveal some of the emotion that we’ve come to love from them but at no point does the album ever give you a spine tingling, goosebump inducing piece of Itch’s personal and political soul laid bare.
The album is also let down by the fact that none of these songs, for the foreseeable future at least, will ever be heard live. We Are The Future with it’s electro tinged blasting beat and super catchy chorus sounds like it was made to be screamed back by thousands of jumping kids. We Are F*ing Angry didn’t make sense to me until I was blown away by it’s aggression in a live setting. I feel as though much of the electronic experimentation on Long Live The Struggle sounds a little over produced and takes away some of the TKB’s classic anger and aggression that characterized so much of The King Blues earlier output.
The end of the album doesn’t pack the punch I expected from a final track on a King Blues record, by no means is it a bad song but it doesn’t stand up to classic closing tracks What If Punk Never Happened and Getting Out Of Here, both of which feel much more like the closing of an era than Keep The Faith.This is not to say that there aren’t any gems on Long Live the Struggle. Wasted Words is arguably the best pop song TKB have ever written and it’s female lead Chorus is reminiscent of The Streets at their best.
We Are What We Own is a great opener showcasing Itch’s genius way with words from the outset.Long Live the Struggle is an intriguing album that I still don’t feel, after several spins, like I’ve quite got my head around. It just doesn’t feel like a final album. It is by no means a finish line flop but nor is it the classic we were all hoping for. If Itch and Jamie ever resolve their issues The King Blues have most definitely left the door open as this writer can’t quite accept this is goodbye from The King Blues. * * *To get a feel for the album check out : -‘We Are The Future’-‘Wasted Words’-‘Keep The Faith’
Saturday morning was kicked off by one of the real rags to riches success stories of the weekend on the main stage. Gnarwolves opening set at Reading is a milestone for modern DIY punk music. A band who have made their name touring the UK endlessly, releasing ep’s of their music as and when they have the songs and the time off tour to lay them to record and causing massive waves along the way supporting a hole host of bands including Blink 182 in Europe just before this set.
Their gruff skate-punk styling’s are a long way from any other band playing after them, yet the band mange to translate their show on to the massive stage in brilliant fashion. Lead vocalist and guitarist Thom Weeks visibly loving every second of their set, finishing with the more introspective Limerence it’s a triumphant Reading performance for a band leading the way in British punk music. The Hell then turn up to make everyone bang their heads, scratch their heads, laugh and then say ‘they’re actually quite good you know’. Everybody Dies is one of the songs of the weekend and whilst their whole set doesn’t quite keep up the pace and quality it’s certainly entertaining for more than just attitude, balaclavas and dicks.
An absolutely rammed NME tent meets band of the moment Royal Blood, clearly the hype machine that’s surrounded them all summer, driven by a hefty amount of mainstream radio airplay, shows no signs of slowing yet. It’s a heavy set, full of the songs that a lot of people clearly know the words to, and there are only 2 of them creating a noise this big, with a crowd this diverse all banging their head to rock music. Their set however isn’t actually that memorable, this writer has seen the band on 3 occasions this summer and it’s been exactly the same every time, good foot tapping tracks, delivered sonically to perfection but with little in the form of stage presence.
‘Out Of The Black’ is an undoubted highlight as a set closer and it’s no surprise judging by the crowd’s reaction that Royal Blood have scored a no.1 album, but it remains to be seen where the two-piece go from here. A brief 20 minutes of Lower Than Atlantis sees the band capitalise on their recent rise in popularity ahead of their new album, sounding and looking like they are much happier filling the British rock star boots that many have pinned their name on for the future. The sing along to Deadliest Catch though would’ve made you believe it had been this way for years. Basement were a real buzz band of Reading 2014. Marking their first UK shows since splitting up, much to the sadness of many, back in 2012 after releasing one of the best albums of the year in Colourmeinkindess. It becomes quickly clear that very few people have forgotten how good this band are as a busy tent meets the Ipswich band.
Going straight in to ‘Whole’ from their sophomore album and rarely relenting for the rest of their 10 song set of post-grunge rock music. The crowd reaction in this tent is what makes the ‘Lock Up’ or ‘The Pit’ as it’s newly named for Saturday so special and Basement are met with a crowd throwing their voices and hands in the air throughout. The moment of the set comes when vocalist Andrew Fisher ignited the crowd singing the opening refrain of the Pixies-esque ‘Covet’, the sight of a packed tent screaming his words back at him after 2 years away leaves the singer visibly elated. Another set that feels like an achievement, Basement are back and it feels so good.
The Hives then declare themselves as the best band you’ll watch all weekend. They do have the best back drop of the weekend, and they are professional performers, but frontman Pelle Almqvist is clearly far happier telling the crowd how great The Hives are instead of actually delivering on their promise. It’s Great fun in the afternoon sun singing along to ‘Tick tick Boom’ and set closer ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’, but it’s hardly groundbreaking. Don Broco follow in a similar vein to Lower Than Atlantis. Whilst initially struggling with sound issues they quickly conquer, this afternoon set is clearly a chance for the band to enjoy themselves.
With a new album finally on the horizon whilst the popularity of debut Priorities continues to grow, Rob Damiani and co look like they are having a riot in a busy NME tent, and with tracks like massive pop-rock closer ‘You Wanna Know’ sparking mass sing alongs it’s the sign of a bright future both on record and in the live setting. A big slot on the main stage beckons if their next album takes that next step up. And now for something completely different- Die Antwoord.
The curveball booking of the weekend, playing their only UK shows at Reading and Leeds on a rare venture to these shores the sight of Yolandi Visser and Ninja emerging to a rapturous reception from the wild crowd is one to behold. A tent full of the young Reading crowd, many of whom look as if they’re enjoying some of their first escapades in to the world of drugs at festivals. The bombardment of phallic imagery, slamming techno beats, the energy and enthusiasm of an ageing, drug addled tattooed man wearing nothing but Dark Side of The Moon boxer shorts and his partner in crime the black eyed, high pitched bleached blonde Yolandi.
It’s a set the defines the change Reading has undergone, reflecting the shift in the modern cultural landscape, Die Antwoord are a band of the Youtube generation, making their global name through their unique and entertaining music videos 5 of which have over 20 million views. The remarkably oung audience singing every word to ‘I Fink You Freaky’, ‘Baby’s On Fire’ and ‘Enter The Ninja’ reflect a counter cultural shift, this audience has clearly grown up on the shock tactics of Die Antwoord online output.
It’s an entertaining if slightly baffling set- watch a track on the BBC. With one of the albums of the year under their belt and a huge UK headline arena tour culminating in a date at London’s Earls Court, it could be easy for Bombay Bicycle Club to go through the motions at their last festival show of the summer. Thankfully they put on a set befitting of the future headliner status they now occupy.
Drawing predominantly from ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ and bringing out guest after guest in the form of Rae Morris and Lucy Rose along with a selection of backing instrumentalists completing their expansive sound. Songs like the Bollywood dance of ‘Feel’ and raucous set closer ‘Carry Me’ are what set Bombay Bicycle Apart from almost every other band on this stage. A great set, worthy of the same slot on the main stage, and the perfect warm up to what was to come.