I feel it necessary to begin all three of these reviews (Moonflower Lane, Massive Grooves... and Tapehead) with the same somewhat negative introduction, to put what I then say about the individual albums into an overall perspective. I was financially restricted for a good portion of 1998, but when I got myself out of the hole, I purchased all three of these CD's the same day as a sort of late Christmas present to myself.
My initial reaction, therefore, was similar to what I had often with Ear Candy, which is that heavy=Doug, mellow=Ty. Now that they were allowed a complete split, the difference became even more dramatic. In addition, the vocal harmonies on both solo efforts suffer, since one person doing each part gives it a one-dimensional feel. (The thing that makes Freddie Mercury great is his ability to layer 100 vocals of himself onto Queen tunes, but the result is just one giant Freddie, not a rich harmony.)
Doug's songs come off kind of uniform because of his limited guitar chord choices, which may be due directly to his personal playing ability. Although hitting on some harsh topics like murderous spouses, homosexuality, and various personal tragedies, many of the lyrics are simplistic and derivative odes to shaking, grooving or believing in music. Deeper meanings may just be lost on me because I haven't dug into this enough.
Ty's songs are kind of thin and straight, with little groove or depth, and slip occasionally into the guitar-ego showing off his chops territory (although only mildly). The lyrics are stronger than Doug's in many ways, but don't carry a lot of emotional weight, opting to tell a story rather than be one.
So, as much as I truly enjoy both solo albums, they eventually just leave me wanting more of these guys as a band. In addition, the absence of Jerry on all of Ty's and most of Doug's tunes just emphasizes what a different kind of drummer he is compared to the mainstream style of the other players. The way the three King's X members complement each other's styles makes a conjunction that is far greater than the sum of it's parts. Upon listening to the new album, having now vented their individual ideas, it's sounds the most like songs were written as a group since the first couple albums. I've listened to Tapehead probably five times more than the solo albums.
Now, on to the individual reviews:
I was deliberately giving the albums some time to settle in my mind before getting back to this, but I've taken most of a year now, so here goes nothing. First of all, I want to backtrack just a little on what I say above about Doug's lyrics being a little derivative. That really only applies to the first three cuts (Jangle, Shake and Music) which are oddly clustered at the beginning of the album, almost setting you up to not take the rest of the songs as seriously as they deserve.
But what really comes out of this is the fact that Doug, after so many disappointments and so much abuse, really only believes in the freedom that music brings anymore. He's cut the rest of his spirituality off, at least to us on the outside. So maybe I would have accepted these songs more if they had been at the end of the album. After hearing the stories of all these tragedies in his life, we would then understand why the music is the only true escape for him.
The rest of the album is then a series of various dark things from his personal life, some dealt with, most left unresolved. The old man in Love, Soul and Hey may be Doug as his own future self, looking back on life and telling his stories. Once we hear these stories, our own lives get a little Darker as we relate to the pain but are unable to comfort the person on the other side of our stereo. The emotion is one-directional, and his pain is only released in the telling. We here of the tragedies Friends have suffered, and PsychoLove is even more detailed. Supersalad deals with the inablity to communicate when you feel unable to approach some people, and Red is a deeper story of trying to tell anyone what you truly feel inside. So, if we can make that personal connection with someone, we shouldn't turn a BlindEye to them.
After empathising with all this pain and abuse, River does finally assure us that we can let ourselves rest from it, take it easy. Let the music flow over you and set your soul free.
Hey, Doug, I really don't know how to ease what's inside you, but I want you to know that now that I've heard the old man's stories, I understand the pain. I may be an intangible fan, distant and impersonal, but what peace you can take from me I give you freely.
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