“King Tuff should not be inspected or even listened to with critical ears. Cut your ears off. Rock & Roll is meant to be blasted into your cells, penetrated, and absorbed. It’s a visceral experience.”
Well, shit. King Tuff producer Bobby Harlow wants me to cut my ears off. This obviously creates a dilemma for me, the guy who’s supposed to “inspect” King Tuff with “critical ears.” To review this album is to defy the purpose of its existence. How do I critique something that’s un-critique-able?
King Tuff is the second full-length from the one-man band of the same name. The actual identity of King Tuff is unknown; he’s referred to simply by his stage name (or “The King” if you’re feeling toady), and he creates unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll full of bombastic chords and shout-along-with-a-beer-in-your-hand choruses. My typical approach to album reviews (sit alone and listen to a record in an environment free of distractions) is antithetical to this kind of music.
So, I abandoned my standard and decided to only listen to King Tuff in places where unadulterated rock n’ roll is often heard. I convinced a local pub to play the CD over the speakers, played it at a house party, and threw it on whilst driving around with friends on a lazy weeknight. I then noted some of the reactions of people who were listening passively rather than critically.
There was toe tapping, head bobbing, and I even got a few responses: “This rocks.” “What are we listening to? It’s good.” “I really liked that song about getting stoned.”
That last response refers to “Alone and Stoned”, a downright anthem of a track with a falsetto chorus that’s hard to sing along to (but quite hummable). The King drawls like Dylan and sneers like an adolescent Marc Bolan, and T. Rex is an apt comparison for King Tuff’s sound. Power-pop churners “Bad Thing” and “Loser’s Wall” are knee-deep in attitude and swagger.
King Tuff does everything a straightforward rock album should. It’s catchy, instantly memorable, and—most importantly—fun. Critically deconstructing it wouldn’t be much fun, now would it? Sure, King Tuff’s sound is derivative, but that trope applies to every modern rock ‘n’ roller. King Tuff isn’t interested in being innovative or groundbreaking. He wants to penetrate your cells with the visceral experience that is ROCK. And he succeeds.
Essential Tracks: “Alone and Stoned”, “Bad Thing”, “Loser’s Wall”