In an age where it seems anyone who can couple a Johnny Marr style riff with a Cribs style “Woah-oh-oh” chorus gets their 15 minutes of fame on the NME stage at Reading - it’s exciting to come across a band who step away from the template and have something more to say. That band is The King Blues. You may have heard of the ska-punk outfit, they have been around a while, playing the festivals circuit and numerous tours as a support act. But 2011 is the year that they have come into their own and will soon be rewarded with their biggest headline show yet at the Camden Roundhouse.
The band’s strength lies with their political awareness. In a time where music is so often apathetic towards such issues it’s refreshing to hear a band who still gives a f*** even 30 years after Joe Strummer was weighing up his career opportunities. They have released three albums so far but perhaps due to their sound veering away from the easy and very marketable indie, they have been largely overlooked.
The severely underrated songwriter who drives this band is Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox. Itch writes songs that are punchy, meaningful and tackle political issues directly and head on. Their most recent offering, Punk and Poetry, could not have come out in a more relevant year - in the wake of the tuition fee protests and just before the more recent UK riots. “This is class war! This is class war!” proclaims Itch on the bluntly titled We Are F****** Angry over the backdrop of an aggressive riff. He addresses a range of issues across the album, the beautiful ukulele-led Shooting Fascists for example, offers an important reminder to BNP and EDL supporters everywhere that “Your granddad didn’t vote for fascists he shot ‘um”.
The King Blues are a true gem in a huge array of modern bands that are so dull live – a proper punk rock experience – would you expect anything less from a band named after spliff-sized rizlas?
Politics feature heavily across the bands back catalogue with the war on terror being heavily referenced across their debut Under The Fog and 2008’s follow up Save The World Get The Girl. With songs like this it’ll be no surprise to anyone that their upcoming run of shows includes joining Billy Bragg on the Leftfield in Motion tour. Although it is their anger and passion for politics that set this band aside from the Topman clad typical four-pieces that pour out of middle England year after year, they are by no means a heavy-going listen and have host of other subject matter in their set list. My Boulder for example is a simple tune about looking after your mates when they’ve had too much to drink - a great reminder that these type of songs can still be found even since Alex Turner stopped getting chucked out of queues for clubs.
Song writing aside The King Blues are first and foremost a class live act. My first encounter with them came when they supported The Pogues at Brixton a couple of years back. Since then I’ve returned to see them for half a dozen great gigs – the most recent was one of the best experiences of my life at Glastonbury’s Strummerville stage. The band performed a secret late night set which culminated in most of the audience joining them on stage to join in with the last song in true raucous punk rock fashion. Having seen so many sets that consisted of a simple run through of a set list, with biggest hits typically reserved for the end and minimal crowd interaction or banter – this Strummerville show fanned the fire of my love for live music. Itch offered the microphone to the audience regularly throughout the set, openly swigging from a big bottle of cider and guitarist Jamie Jazz played sections of the gig stood in the crowd. It was brilliant.
It is an atmosphere like this that should make people get tickets for the band’s final UK tour of the year. The passionate nature is arguably more important than their political defiance - every show is a party to which crowd and band alike are equal participants. Hearing a band that really care about political issues that are affecting young people is great but praise for them as a live act isn’t carried by these songs, it is merited by the performances. So often I see bands that seem to be doing the festivals just because they feel they have to, playing to static audiences barely remembering when is the right time to clap. The King Blues are a true gem in a huge array of modern bands that are so dull live – a proper punk rock experience – would you expect anything less from a band named after spliff-sized rizlas?
If you want to see The King Blues their tour kicks off at the Camden Roundhouse on 2nd November before going across the country. Tickets are still available.
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