Review: King Khan & The Shrines – “Idle No More” [2013]

Band: King Khan & The Shrines
Label: Merge Records
Date: September 2013

Tracklist:
1. Born to Die
2. Bite My Tongue
3. Thorn in Her Pride
4. Luckiest Man
5. Better Luck Next Time
6. Darkness
7. Pray for Lil
8. Bad Boy
9. So Wild
10. Yes I Can’t
11. I Got Made
12. Of Madness I Dream

Comments: I just saw a thing, announcing this as a comeback album for the sensational, one of my favorite bands for some time now, King Khan and the Shrines. That’s kind of true, I thought. Their last release – The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines – was my personal introduction to the band. It came out in 2008. But in the time between (5 years), I’ve had the great chance of seeing the Shrines three times, in ’09, ’10, and ’12. So they’ve always been around, putting on some of the finest shows a band can. The presence of King Khan as soon as he hits the stage is always met with crazy levels of reception. It is usually after the 8 member Shrines warm us up with their horny glory when Khan joins in on the madness. While Idle No More might be considered as taking it down a few notches, it is a still a bastion of psychedelic soul, R&B, and fuzzy rock ‘n roll that I haven’t found to be matched in the modern era. The older Shrines releases have some more grease to them, maybe a touch more slime, and easy flowing blunt force, but this is something of an instrumental masterpiece.

Maybe as I’ve gotten myself familiar with King Khan’s music over the years, I’ve begun to appreciate the finer aspects songwriting and recorded performance present in such an outwardly fun style of music. But yeah, what I’m trying to say, is that Idle No More has more layers and dynamics to it than the average r’n’r album, that it’s hard not to appreciate just the fact that something like this was pulled off with great success. There’s definitely some unexpected moments – like on songs like “Pray For Lil” and “Bad Boy” that feature vocals from Jena Roker who sang on “Unicorn Rainbow Odyssey” on Mark Sultan’s Sultanic Verses. That last bit of info I had to look up, but I remember a female singer from that song that was really a cool way to end an album. But yeah these songs are ultra-soul, but keenly poppy while maintaining the innate rawness of the Shrines. This is stuff that’ll most likely win over your friends that are afraid of getting into real good music. The first four songs on the album – “Thorn in Her Pride” and “Luckiest Man” are tops for me at this point – these are the ones that’ll get the people moving the most at the shows. They all sound faintly similar as far as being driven to climax by outrageously crisp horns and choruses that will struggle to leave your memory. “So Wild” is a tribute to Khan’s dear friend/one of this site’s most advocated artists Jay Reatard. The production of it recalls Jay behind the mixing boards – it sounds sorta somber at the start, but truly explodes during the chorus.

Some bands might get a little flak for songs sounding like each other, but the Shrines manipulate the formula often enough that distinct styles often shine through like the garage jangle on “Yes I Can’t” (a standout on the album for sure, a powerhouse of a song) and hand-clap galore, early Shrines throwback “I Got Made”. People who really dug The Supreme Genius oughta definitely appreciate that one, particularly. The one tune that makes it mark as a departure from the upbeat pulse of the record is the minimal “Darkness,” which is haunting and stands as a mini-closer. The real finishing touch is “Of Madness I Dream”. It sways slowly, builds progressively, and reaches a fuzzy tipping point, collapsing solos reign before Khan’s vocals re-enter to deliver the final lines.

Idle No More doesn’t quite have the sultry passion that dominates the Shrines earlier work, but for seemingly deeper songs, these still rock ‘n roll… time and time again. The stuff is held together well, a little grit has been traded in for sonic soundness and more often than not, this works great. One of the more interesting bands of our time with a just as interesting front man, King Khan and the Shrines have once again delivered to us modern rock and soul as rousing as it comes.

klyamrecommended

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