Say goodbye to Megaforce Worldwide! King's X is officially worthwhile in the eyes of the owners, so welcome to Atlantic. The result? A self-titled fourth album, with an obviously more commercial approach. Not that that is bad in and of itself. They start experimenting in some new directions. Ty uses a clean/acoustic guitar part in lot of songs, and we get, not one, but two uses of the "singing through a distorting telephone" effect.
With so many mellower songs this time around, they still start off fast and furious with The World Around Me, featuring the shortest guitar solo I've ever heard. Do these lyrics intend to say that they're going to move away from openly religious things and start tackling more everyday topics from a spiritual standpoint? They do have such songs on previous works, and material here and after that's still religious, but I do see a trend. This does, I think, keep them fresh without losing any integrity about their beliefs.
The two different guitar parts on Prisoner, one heavy one clean, gives a very cool feel to this, which we get more of later on. But I think I like it here the best. It let's the heavy riff groove while keeping a flowing vibe.
Speaking of groove, The Big Picture has plenty. I'm not going to sit here and explain some definition of "groove" to make my point clear, because I'm no expert. It's just what I call it. This also gives us only the second (maybe third?) time we get Jerry doing a lead vocal. Then later, Doug is singing all distorted, and I absolutely love it! Way cool effect! This song builds slowly on itself like so many things on Gretchen without overdoing it like faith hope love tended to do.
Lost In Germany, to me, makes it's point long before it's over, and is therefore too redundant. Musically, it still holds up as good King's X, but these may be some of their worst lyrics. I guess they're trying to show a human side of frustration so that we don't think of them as always being happy-go-lucky-robots-of-God, because that isn't reality. But reality like this gets dull, so why make a whole song out of it? How about one verse in a song about several frustrating situations? Sorry, I don't mean to be so pretentious as to say I could write a better song. But I know they can.
I like how Chariot Song ends, then comes back to end again. It emphasizes the brighter part rather than the rougher part it initially ended on. I don't like how it uses the same vocal effect (briefly) as The Big Picture. Why? Because before it really worked, musically, to help build the song. Here, it doesn't really do that. I like experimentation, but not if the idea doesn't better the song itself.
Now, for anyone who says these guys are too positive to write anything dark, I submit the Ooh Song as evidence to the contrary. This absolutely broods and oozes! I love the little extra clean notes at the end when the distorted riff pauses.
Did you notice that the little solo at the end of Not Just For The Dead is Amazing Grace? Not as clever as the ending of Legal Kill, but still a cool addition. This is also the most blatantly spiritual song on the album, and the weirdest. Possibly the band's all-time weirdest song. I like it.
Listen to how far Doug has come in ways to distort a bass sound! The bass line of What I Know About Love is actually better than the guitar part! Not a common thing! The long ending again shows how well these guys can let a song just breathe and flow, not needing to be packaged into the perfect three-minute piece.
Black Flag is obviously a commercial effort. I heard it on the radio a few times, but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. The lyrics do show the not-so-perfect life followers of Christ deal with. I remember one critic back when this came out saying that this and Lost In Germany were the first time the band ever wrote about anything negative, instead of always being so happy. Of course, he must not have heard Far, Far Away or Talk To You.
Dream In My Life is pretty dreamy on the verses, but gets heavier. The riff just before the solo, with the crunch followed by the one high chord, just rips!
For an album that has more negative material, they still end on a pretty positive theme with Silent Wind. The lyrics may be about poor communication between people (and with God), but the music is happy, and the ending is just fun. Followed by a blurb of in-studio silliness!
Overall, this album is a bit of a let down following the faith hope love progressive-rock free-for-all, but it still holds up on it's own, with some new ideas both musically and lyrically. For an uninitiated listener, this may be the album to start with, building up to the bigger works from before.
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