Was Dead

King Tuff ‎SKU: BRGR016



When King Tuff Was Dead, the debut album from over-extended musician Kyle Thomas, arrived in 2008, it was the perfect counterpoint to much of what was pervasive in indie rock circles at the time. Recorded in a lo-fi, bedroom manner but by no means obscured with reverb, the guitar-centric glam pop songs lacked the poorly recorded drum machines, joyless goth undertones, or neon reflections of any number of overly chilled-out splinter genres happening in the bedroom-recording scene at the time. The 13 songs of catchy pop didn't take themselves too seriously but sunk their teeth deep, taking cues from the best moments of everyone from the Only Ones to the New York Dolls to touches of the introverted world of the Wipers' Greg Sage. Thomas was spread thin touring and recording with more than a few projects when King Tuff Was Dead first surfaced, keeping the project from reaching its full potential immediately, but an enormous buzz grew around the incredibly limited vinyl-only release, driving prices for copies of King Tuff Was Dead up into the hundreds for rabid online collectors. The subsequent re-release of the album has made it more accessible, and that's a good thing. A collection this strong being relegated to "lost album" status would be a tremendous waste. While not every single song is a smash hit, they're all good; the highlights are phenomenal and the less immediately striking songs are growers. The great tracks are inventive, concise, and gleefully oblivious, from the yearning teenage power pop of "Connection" to the dusty drifter vibes of "Sun Medallion," not to mention the Bolan-soaked boogie punk of "Just Strut." When Tuff isn't knocking 'em dead with hooks, there's the unlimited cool of "Kind of Guy," sounding like a young Jonathan Richman fronting the Undertones at their snottiest, or "Freak When I'm Dead," a wild acoustic-meets-fuzz think piece that evokes Roky Erickson singing for the Feelies about how he's gonna live the weirdo life to the grave. While Thomas eventually thinned out his commitments to focus on King Tuff, going on to record for Sub Pop and tour ceaselessly, King Tuff Was Dead is a brilliant time capsule of where the project began, and all of the promise and excitement it had even before the rise of Thomas and his contemporaries like Kurt Vile and Ty Segall. Equal parts insular world, block party, and crib notes from the power pop encyclopedia, it'd be worth its weight in eBay gold if it never saw broader release, but deserves to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

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