The King Blues – Punk & Poetry Review

The last time the Tories came into power it was just after a time for massive social change in Great Britain. Many groups in working class areas of the country grew tired of following social convention and blindly trusting their leaders. No movement would become more iconic or influential than the Punk revolution of the 1970’s. An anarchist insurrection defined by the rebellious spirit of it’s members and their distrust of leading political and religious institutions. The problem, however, with a social-political movement being spearheaded by teenage rebels is that none of them are known for their organisational skills or sense of discipline. This lead to the movement becoming unfocused and unstructured; aimlessly wandering around with no real objective or target for their aggressions.

Therefore Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power in 1979 was so well timed you would be forgiven for thinking she’d done it out of sheer politeness to the stagnating revolution. The punks had found their target, one that would be pretty hard to miss for an entire decade. Thatcher’s prioritisation of business and industry at the expense of the poor and labouring classes outraged the left’s socialist sensibilities. Thatcher’s Objectivist belief in the individual, claiming that community is an illusion, was a direct challenge to Left Wing Altruistic philosophies. Philosophies that would form the basis of punk rock.

Bands such as The Clash, The Specials and The Jam all shared their frustrations on a national scale with anthems decrying a system that favoured privilege and status over hard work and family.

Then in the early 90’s, disaster struck. Financial stability. The rise of the middle classes, the all time low unemployment records, people in the poorest parts of Britain still living above the poverty line. For a musical style born out of destitution and desperation, this signalled the end.

Move the clock forward a decade and a half. Post 9/11 financial stability causing misleading faith in western markets, led to financial companies loaning money to the people least able to give it back. This causes the growth of a property bubble, which bursts in spectacular fashion towards the end of the decade. The country hits recession, the deficit is higher than it has been in years and the Tories are back in power. A mirror image to the conditions that acted as a catalyst for the original punk movement.

So where is it now? In the last few years we’ve been hit by Government cuts, big business bailouts and thousands of jobs lost. So where is our Jam? Where is this generations Joe Strummer? So far since the Millenium celebrations all this country has managed to produce are a bunch of insipid, meandering dandies. All writing weak, miserable tosh, far too introspective and self indulgent to be of any real social relevance whatsoever. If music represents the people of it’s times then this truly has been the age of the apathetic generation.

But there is hope for the future. Step forward The King Blues.

The King Blues are Punk/Ska quintet from North London. And as the most popular track from their album on Spotify attests to, They Are Fucking Angry. In the first album I’ve heard address the financial situation with the balls not to be ambiguous about it, The King Blues have made a scathing, uncompromising statement about a system that favours socialism when it benefits the ruling classes and condemns it when it dares to favour anyone else.

The album starts with a dedication. In the world of The King Blues the heroic figures are the underdogs who struggle against the odds. They are the villains who recognise their own villainy, making concious attempts to defy convention and break the cycle of immorality. They are thanked to the tune of an echoing piano and angelic harmonies, right up until the moment where the serious business of the album begins. Announced with an almighty electronic riff, the dedication is over and the declaration of war begins.

We Are Fucking Angry pulls no punches where it’s beliefs are concerned. It’s a call to arms for the people seemingly fine with being part of a one sided system that hangs the poor out to dry. It’s a theme continued throughout the album.The follow up track, Set The World On Fire, misses no steps and within the first few lyrics the band straight back on message. It seeks to criticize TV news coverage and papers for distracting the masses with irrelevant non issues, while the real social problems can’t be discussed because the advertisers would be uncomfortable talking about it.

Johnny ‘Itch’ Fox presents a vivid picture on each and every track. He makes sure that just because the album is fiercely Punk it never skips out on the promise of Poetry. He can tell enthralling stories, showcasing his knowledge on many subjects. A smart boy is Johnny. He doesn’t fall into the trap of so many of his contemporaries. He knows what he’s talking about before he commits it to tape. But it’s his imagination and philosophy that are the real stars of the show.

Throughout the album I’d be surprised if you didn’t pick up on a few key phrases here and there. These are phrases that could well change you’re own outlook on several subjects. But if you already hold those views yourself, you might find that Mr Itch expresses them with better eloquence than perhaps your own mind can muster. I won’t list my own favourites here; I leave it up to you to check out the album for yourselves to pick out some choice cuts.

But I would recommend you start with “5 Bottles of Shampoo” a masterful celebration of the strength of women and a condemnation of men’s use of force to control them emotionally. And as I write this sentence the track passes on to “Sex Education” where I’m reminded of how funny Itch can be. He tells the all too true story of a boy who finds out about sex through porn sites; parents too embarrassed or too lazy to pass on the facts of life themselves.

And that’s the best thing about this group. Unlike many socially concious bands, they never let their focus of the big picture blind them to the small. This is a working class band in every sense; they work hard and they never forget where they came from. Two tracks in particular showcase the uncompromising honesty and down to earth nature of this unbelievably promising group. Those tracks are “Headbutt” and “Everything Happens for a Reason”. They are also two of the simplest. They don’t concern themselves with matters of international injustice or left wing protesting. They are simply the stories of a man falling in love and what it’s like to become a dad. Both told with such clarity; Itch lays his soul bear upon the vinyl, holds no emotion back and invites the audience to come with him on his journey.

Often, stories such as these can feel like the artists are commoditizing their feelings, making a fake play to relate to an audience they only think they understand. But Itch’s memories of real life are far too recent to be replaced with the fame and fortune I hope they are well on their way to. I dare anyone who can relate to these songs, to listen and not have a massive ear to ear grin on you’re face.

Now you can take this with a pinch of salt if you want. After all, their outstanding guitarist Jamie Jazz made a great play list for this very site. But I am a champion for this band and this album. I can’t remember liking such a brutally honest album so much since Word Gets Around by the Stereophonics. It’s an album that never makes you angry when it points out injustice, rather it makes you feel optimistic at it’s demise; it makes you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. And when the album focuses on family and life it makes you smile and reminisce. It’s a superb album from a bright band with one hell of a career ahead of them. And I cannot wait for the next one.

Lee Hazell

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