Review Summary: More of a tight, 20-year retrospective...
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult is one of those very few bands which managed to remain relevant to their scene even 30 years after their inception. Untainted by any passing trends, Groovie Mann & Buzz McCoy encapsulated themselves long ago in a sonic sphere of their own. At the end of the successful tour celebrating their classic LPs, I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits
and Confessions of a Knife
, the group returned home to finish their latest fun ride. Previous album, Spooky Tricks
favored a more dance floor-ready vibe with few guitar or occult intrusions. I kind of expected them to revert to a darker direction and it partially happened on In the House of Strange Affairs
The album feels like a more sinister counterpart to its predecessor, taking the ‘90s euro disco and acid house into a harder sex-and-drugs-fueled haze. At times, I thought it reminisces their magnum opus (in my opinion), 13 Above the Night
. These influences were successfully wrapped in kitschy, horror B-movie soundtrack visions or samples, as well as tales of exploited/killed women and washed up Hollywood stars. The resulting music represents best TKK these days. To be more concise, you can view this LP as a retrospective of their post-2000 material. It stands on his own very well though, making good use of all the tested formulas to create probably their most coherent song collection since the late ‘90s. We’re offered thrilling piano leads and paranoid synths over smooth, David Lynch-imagined, dive bar bangers such as the title track, ‘Under a Crown’ & ‘Royal Skull’. Groovie Mann keeps switching between vitriolic remarks, dramatic spoken word one liners and layered singalongs. His persona is just as charismatic as ever, maybe more so these days, since his voice has a lower register now. Meanwhile, they still know how to work around damn groovy bass lines; biggest highlight, ‘It’s Me, Holly’ boasts a killer laid back rhythm, accompanied by haunting chimes, droning pads and percussion. ‘Hanging Hearts’ continues this late night extravaganza through its windy keys and uneasy mood, whereas ‘Year of the Klown’ builds on syncopated beats and pulsing sequencers. You can recognize a Thrill Kill Kult song instantly, but even though they are familiar, the band gloriously recycles their ideas to keep them entertaining.
To diversify the listen, there are some awkward or more experimental moments by their standards on In the House of Strange Affairs
. The heavily sedated, acid disco on ‘Treat Street’ toys with shiny keyboards and short bursts of noisy guitars. I like the contrast, it gives off a Primal Scream aura overall. Meanwhile, the two book ending tracks are less predictable than usual, ‘Gold to Gray’ being the sonic equivalent to a fever dream, relying on brooding synths to spice things up. It comes off as a fitting theme for the entire album, while the closer ‘Am I Dead"’ is what you would hear and say at the end of a bender or during a massive hangover. Its delusional atmosphere works great as a conclusion to this volatile trip. On the other side of the spectrum, however, we’re treated to some riffs on the catchy single, ‘The Chains of Fame’. I kind of hoped they inserted more along the way, because a fair number of the best tunes in their catalog make good use of guitars.
At this point, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult are taking advantage of their cult status and choose to feed their listeners instead of actively reaching out to a new audience. They undoubtedly deserve a bigger following, but compromising their output to have albums released on major labels wouldn’t be of any use. As everyone is hooked now on ‘80s synths (after gradually getting tired of the late ‘60s psychedelic and early ‘70s hard rock revival), it probably won’t be long until people rediscover the ‘90s too. With a little bit of luck the band will be cool again and gain new listeners. Until then, take some time to listen to In the House of Strange Affairs
, it is one of their tightest records overall in 20 years.