Review Summary: A peasant draped in purple.The King
is an anomaly in the discography of Teenage Fanclub. Released in a batch of twenty-thousand copies by Creation Records – and subsequently deleted after that day – the power pop band’s sophomore album has increasingly become a collector’s item of sorts. What its status fails to show is that The King
has the sound of a glorified demo tape, almost nothing like the band that would release Bandwagonesque
just a few months later.
That’s not to say that four friends dicking around in a studio is a bad thing, and that’s also not to say that The King
has no redeeming qualities. In fact, a few songs hold the blueprint that the band perfected sound-wise on Bandwagonesque
and song-wise on Grand Prix
. Opener ‘Heavy Metal 6’ and ‘Heavy Metal 9’ are pure pop chords and blissful harmonies condensed into a minute and a half each, and their cover of Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ – the only song on the album with lyrics – is an unlikely match made in heaven with the fuzz of Norman Blake and Raymond McGinley’s guitars. When the band combine spontaneity with craft, The King
shines. Unfortunately, this only falls into place for about a third of the album.
The rest of The King
sounds like a band in shambles; again, sometimes this works, and sometimes this fails horribly. Drawn-out grunge-esque instrumentals – like ‘Mudhoney’, presumably the band’s idea of Mudhoney – don’t sound bad on the Fannies, but they have a tendency to drag on far too long without adding anything more interesting to the song. On a thirty-two minute record, it’s ridiculous to still feel too long. On the other end, some tracks try
to sound interesting to the point where it’s detrimental. Somebody thought a title track - full of that moment at the end of the show where the opening act can’t decide if they want drag their cacophony of sound on for another thirty seconds before the main attraction goes on – was a good idea. It’s inherently not
a good idea. The indecipherable vocals on “Robot Love” could have been a good idea too – but it’s the execution of these ideas that leave the record wanting.
Ultimately, the band’s serviceable but uninteresting cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ sums up The King
quite precisely. If you want an album that wants or cares to impress you, The King
is not going to give you that. The King
doesn’t want to give; it wants you to take what you can out of it. If it’s what you’re looking for, that’s wonderful. However, in the context of Teenage Fanclub’s discography, with pleasant pop songs that reward everyone whether they look for extra depth or not – it’s not particularly recommended.