A more charismatic, enigmatic nomad of a furioso frontman/artist/guitar legend could not be imagined. You can't make this shit up.
Grinning gold teeth behind blonde shades, in black, skeletal denim, with a studded "KING TUFF" across the shoulders where feral locks fall around his infamous "Sun Medallion." With an acoustic guitar slung over the shoulder, King Tuff slinks through the abandoned halls of Detroit's Malcolm X Academy. His baseball hat reads "VERMONT." It's the 4th of July.
Will somebody please snap a photo of this animal before it escapes back into the wilderness from which it came??!!
Magic Jake pulls up on a motorcycle, riding left-handed with his bass guitar hanging from the right arm, shoeless.
Kenny arrives in a rusted van, drums stacked in the back atop a shedding sofa complete with coffee table and a thermos full of god knows what.
Captain Cox, prodigy engineer, is attempting to "fix" the mixing console, on his back, under the wires, a flashlight between his teeth and soldering gun in hand.
"COX!" I bark, "What the FUCK are you doing?"
"Just trying to get these channels to work," he laments.
"What's wrong with them?" I lean under the desk and practically fall into a pile of live spaghetti.
"I built them," he confesses.
King Tuff sits, center stage between Magic Jake and Kenny, his trademark guitar, Jazijoo, on his lap while the rhythm section diligently loops the groove under Tuff's frenetic fingering.
Silent on a marble staircase, a ghost of a child, King Tuff, expressionless, leans back into a half shadow, with rays of silver rings leaping under incandescent light. The sessions go long into the bordering hours of morning.
Never a dull moment. King Tuff exclaims, "I'm an expert on the vibraphone." I laugh, and then he performs one, perfect take. Seriously.
My familiarity with Was Dead, his last release, was limited. Under the avalanche of thirty-something demos, I'd selected 16 to record for his Sub Pop debut.
After investigating Was Dead I realized that, with his latest offering, his songwriting was stretching far beyond the thrill of the immediate dance-floor reflex and now revealed a songwriter with a keen eye inside everyone. That was the stuff that I was interested in. Embarrass me! I don't give a fuck about your ex-girlfriend.
King Tuff: "You always want to erase the imperfect in your beautiful face, and you think about the time you waste in this impossible place."
"Loop those fucking beats, Kenny!" was my mantra. I shout at the session! Millions of albums arrive daily, yet for Tuff, this is the only one. And I understand that perfectly.
King Tuff sang 16 songs in two days. We chant: "Nobody gives a shit!" This is not precious, it's priceless—ART. Make it, don't molest it.
But how? More frustration! More saturation! More immediacy! Filthier! Frighten me! Shake it 'til you break it! It's a perversion of a language that sounds like Rock & Roll. But new, again.
Rock & Roll is dead. King Tuff Was Dead. Rock & Roll is alive. King Tuff is dead. The passion is all there is. We ARE wild strawberries.
An artist should never be careful, nor should the audience covet. Take the shot! Embrace the imperfection. Create more music, carelessly.
We've created something here. 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.
Seek solace in solitude when you're dead. If you aren't able to recognize the genius in this epic album, then you're already dead. Kill yourself. Or get a job.
Stop here. Don't pay attention. Blast it! It's not precious; it's real. It belongs to you. Do what thou wilt. It's yours.
All that aside, this album fucking rules. I should know, I've heard it about a million times.
Lovely Bad Things
Brought together by time and fate – they’d all known each other since high school, but finally made a band together in 2009 – and named by some kind of esoteric computer filename error too complex to further explain, Orange County’s The Lovely Bad Things are the hyperactive omnitalented and relentlessly hilarious garage-pop band who crowdfunded their way to an encore performance at the world-famous Primavera Sound festival and whose new album The Late Great Whatever was titled during a dream at the suggestion of their spirit guide, who happens to look strangely like Dinosaur Jr drummer Murph. Was that a lot to take in all at once? Then now you can sympathize with the cop who pulled them over on their way to the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico: ‘"Who here has ADD?’" Brayden Ward remembers him asking. "And we all raised our hands."
The Lovely Bad Things are Brayden and brother Camron Ward, Tim Hatch and Lauren Curtius, each a multi-instrumentalist and each devoted to a bottomless knowledge of ridiculous pop culture and comprehensive appreciation for the Pixies, though if you dismantled their songs and their record collections both you’d find Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, the B-52s, the Wipers and of course Redd Kross, whose sense of humor and sense for a hook the Bad Things have inherited. They mostly come from the city of La Mirada, but their true home is the Lovely Bad Pad, a converted suburban garage – converted personally by the band members – that’s hosted truly legendary backyard punk shows, up to and including a surprise set by Peter, Bjorn and John, who know a good thing when they hear it.
It’s this combination of D.I.Y. spirit and off-the-wall luck that carried The Lovely Bad Things from that backyard to a cassette release on trendsetter label Burger Records that would be called one of the best L.A. punk releases of 2011 by the L.A. Weekly. And from there they ricocheted into a surprise slot at Primavera Sound festival, crowdfunding and benefit-showing just barely enough for airfare to get there and winning over their audience forever once they did. Now, after building a fan base show by show and person by frothing-at-the-mouth person – a guy once came all the way from Belgium to see them play one special song – The Lovely Bad Things have finished The Late Great Whatever for Volcom Entertainment.
On The Late Great Whatever, Lovely Bad Things roll out just about anything you’d want about 15% faster than you’d expect. Do they do it all? They indeed do it all. They have stormers like Kessel Run and the stand-out Randall the Savage, which is all jittery post-punky guitar and gradually building insanity. Then they have sweetheart pop-punk like Maybe I Know, which is born for the best mixtapes of 2013. They have surf’s-up guitar (Styx And Branches) and wah-wah guitar (Oozin It) and oh-my-God-I’m-being-attacked-by-furious-bees guitar (Kessel Run). They have Frank Black-style spoken-word stammer (Fried Eyes) and cooled-out Kim Deal back-ups. And those heartbreaker harmonies that are part of what make The Lovely Bad Things so special? Pretty much everywhere, thanks to Lauren’s gift for melody, but why don’t you go right to Rope Swing if you need ‘em right away? And if this still seems like a lot to take in at once, don’t worry – down some (or too much) caffeine, roll down the windows and let The Late Great Whatever take the wheel. Just watch out for the cops on the way to the UFO museum. When they hear music like this, they pay way too much attention.
Zig Zags. Los Angeles. Named after the shoes. That’s what we were wearing at the time… “Scavenger”- unloads like Budgie’s “Breadfan” played in a high school heavy metal bedroom while the band screams threats to all freeloaders and marauders who show up to parties empty handed. “Wastin’ My Time”-a more straightforward punker, keeps up the tempo but locks into a repetitive krautrock groove that worms its way into your ear holes like those brain eating maggots in Beastmaster. Cover dude (drawn by Chad Kawamura of the Outdoorsmen) getting eating by a vulture is one of the aforementioned freeloaders we have to deal with out here while our dead friend Randy watches the carnage drunk on Olympia beer like a zombie Clint Eastwood. Zig Zags have shared personnel with West Coast nose-garage royalty the Intelligence and Unnatural Helpers, and make their Mexican Summer debut with this fine piece of plastic.