Friday, March 14, 2008

Return of the King

After King Creosote’s set at the End of the Road Festival last year, Matthew Song By Toad and I had a bit of a debate about the merits of Kenny Anderson’s new direction. We had just witnessed a fairly loud (by KC’s normal standards) show, which mainly consisted of tracks from latest album Bombshell, a record which sees him rocking out like never before, and given a pop sheen seemingly miles from his Fence Collective roots.

I wasn’t taken by the new stuff – I preferred it when the King’s gorgeous voice is unencumbered by amped up guitars and crashing drums – but Matthew rose to its defence. His line of argument was basically that rather than being forced into a more commercial direction by his major record label, this was Kenny getting the opportunity to do something that he had always wanted to do. He’d spent years and years on the lo-fi folk and indie circuits, existing on a shoestring, and now with Warners’ money he was going to use it to rock out in a way he’d always dreamed of.

Now I have some sympathy with this argument, particularly as I’m not the type who’d accuse artists of selling out by allowing their songs to be in adverts (if you’d struggled to make ends meet as a musician, who has the moral authority to tell you to say no when big business comes calling). Matthew’s point is further backed by a glance at KC’s back catalogue. Anderson has been nothing if not prolific, recording as many as 24 albums over the years – CDRs and more minor Fence collections, in addition to his ‘official’ releases. A few of these albums were re-released by Fence Records last year, and some of these contain songs that can also be found on Kenny’s major label albums, KC Rules OK and Bombshell. So he’s clearly been using the opportunity to rework and beef up some of his older songs.

So I’m left unsure of it all really. I actually quite like Bombshell, all things considered. I’m still not too keen on the production, but Kenny’s voice and the quality of his songwriting will always win over for me. The things that I don’t like about the album are more to do with how it’s arranged rather than the songs themselves. His new single Admiral is a case in point. It’s a beautiful song and probably the best on the record, but its delicate loveliness is almost spoiled by an instrumental bridge which sounds like the sort of thing you’d hear in a Royal Mile tourist shop – pure Celtic cheese. Thankfully the song is just too good to be ruined by that minor blip.

Anyway, what’s the point of me going on about all this? I think I’ve lost the thread somewhere, but I guess the main reason is to do with these tracks I’m posting. I’ve just dug out some songs from a session KC did for Marc Riley on BBC6Music back in October last year. It’s just Kenny and a couple of his band-mates, all acoustic and nary a power chord in sight. See what you think – are the songs better when they’re not amped up? I think they are. A little at least. Oh, and I’ve also posted a couple of songs from Psalm Clerk, both of which surfaced later – one on Bombshell and one on KC Rules OK. Ditto the above.

Download: King Creosote – You’ve No Clue Do You (live on BBC6Music)
Download: King Creosote – Leslie (live on BBC6Music)
Download: King Creosote – Home in a Sentence (live on BBC6Music)

Download: King Creosote – Spystick
Download: King Creosote – Not One Bit Ashamed

Buy KC stuff from Fence Records. Admiral is out this week - buy from Rough Trade.

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