Review Summary: The King Blues are dead. Long live The King Blues.
The King Blues has certainly had a turbulent life in its eight years. Six years on from their debut Under The Frog
and after sweeping line-up revamps and drastic sound changes, the band have seemingly come to implosion, and as such, Long Live The Struggle
is their fourth and final album. It’s certainly a far cry from the upbeat ska of their debut Under The Frog
and follow up Save The World, Get The Girl
, the perfect companion music to a sunny Camden side street. Last year’s Punk & Poetry
gave them their darkest and heaviest album yet and a year on it paves the way for Long Live The Struggle
, which is even further removed from the gritty music of before. The brass and stringed instruments have been reduced to the bare minimum and the guitars have been toned down, with strong electronic elements taking the helm courtesy of polished LA production.
It’s hard to know what to think of Long Live The Struggle
. Fans hoping for a full return to any of their previous sounds will be largely disappointed and the message, especially alongside the allegations of hypocrisy and turmoil within the band, now seems clichéd and hollow. Then again, the polished songs on here are some of the best. “Modern Life Has Let Me Done” boasts an immense chorus, “Can’t Bring Me Down” is a powerful song with Jason Butler upstaging yet another band on their own album with his trademark screams alongside Itch’s rapid rapping, opener “We Are What We Own” is catchy and “We Are The Future”, even though it overdoes its electronics with ecstasy filled giddiness, is fun. “When The Revolution Comes”, with its infectiously upbeat rhythm, is the best you’ll get here if you’re looking solely for buoyant ska.
In some ways, the album’s release is a mirror for the final days of The King Blues. All the stories leaking out now the band have broken up are threatening their legacy and Long Live The Struggle
is probably not going to help that. Despite its good moments, much of The King Blues’ soul has been sacrificed in favour of poppy choruses and high production often verging on the overdone (“Wasted Words” and “This Is My Home” are tepid and dull). Punk & Poetry
’s sharp bite is pretty much gone (and don’t expect any perfectly executed gems like “The Future’s Not What It Used To Be”) and with the aforementioned exception, the songs further into the album which hint back to their old ska sound are generally underwhelming. By all accounts however, it would be unfair to label “Long Live The Struggle” a failure simply because of a stylistic change and a few duds. The message and integrity of the band may have been lost somewhere between 2011 and now, but The King Blues have still managed to craft some great songs over a wide palette. They’ll be missed, in more ways than one.