To Kill A King
Label: Xtra Mile Recordings
01. Compare Scars
02. Love is not Control
03. Oh My Love
05. The Chancer
06. School Yard Rumours
07. Good Times (A Rake’s Progress)
08. Musicians like Gamblers like Drunks like Me
09. Grace at a Party
10. World Of Joy (A List of Things To Do)
NBHAP Rating: 3/5
Self-titling as a statement?
Since their enjoyable debut LP Cannibals With Cutlery a few things have changed for TO KILL A KING. Besides the constant growth of their following in September 2013 the band line-up changed as talented Ian Dudfield and Jonathan Willoughby left and Grant McNeill and Joshua Taffel joined the gang around leader Ralph Pelleymounter. In an interview from 2013 the frontman called Ian the optimist of the band ‘He’s got enough optimism for us and the whole human race.’ The more surprising it seems that the new record, produced by Mark Crew and Ben Jackson, shows TO KILL A KING full of optimism along with songs like Good Times, Grace At a Party and World of Joy. It’s a record that makes you think you listen to a bunch of old beloved friends who made some effort and tried out new things like sonic experimentalism and predictable melodies to find their way to a bigger fan base. Yes, the guys are a great live band but this time it feels a bit like the songs were specifically written for the purpose of working especially with a crowd singing along immediately. Well, you can’t blame them. After countless tours and support shows with their hyped British buddies BASTILLE Ralph Pelleymounter and his gang aim big this time but unfortunately got a bit lost along the way.
Catchy melodies and killer choruses
It almost feels a bit like TO KILL A KING tried too hard to make the songs as catchy as possible by using appealing intros like in The Chancer where they also make use of a few worn-out metaphors (‘And the beat goes on my friend, life’s endless drum’). There are choruses that match the song titles like in Love Is not Control, choruses to be heard in the first third of a song and the ones that are easy and fun to sing along. You definitely won’t miss out the typical storytelling and strummed guitar melodies, touching drum rhythms and of course you will hear clever arrangements of the unique vocals. It’s not that the crafted gentlemen suddenly lost all their talent. What makes some songs quite catchy and suitable for active live shows as well is the use of call and response lyrics. Okay, we get that so far. The production might be a bit slicker, everything’s more polished up. It’s what bands usually tend to do on second albums. And it’s not really a bad record but a somehow quite predictable one.
Quantity vs. Quality
No doubt that TO KILL A KING’s self titled record is solid indie-pop material but the question is if it is ingenious enough to satisfy their sophisticated fanbase and those who fell in love with the debut. What we loved about Cannibals with Cutlery is the complexity of its songs and the beauty of its imperfection. The songs were honest little anthems, great tunes whose sing-along atmosphere came from its natural form and not predictable chorusses. The new album seems to be a little dull and sounds like the band tries just a bit to hard to adapt to the masses. As they celebrate good times TO KILL A KING and their more pop-focussed sound might lose some old fans who appreciated the strengths of their earlier work, whilst also finding a new fanbase that enjoys their positive, more fun and of course quite catchy new direction. TO KILL A KING’s second album could be the key to a bigger stage, but honestly, we hope to get a bit more of their lo-fi spirit back in the future.
TO KILL A KING’s self-titled second record reflects the astonishing progress of a band that is meant to play live but also tries a bit to hard to please the crowd’s expectations.