London-based indie band To Kill A King is back with a second, eponymous album. The return of the group headed by singer Ralph Pelleymounter was much awaited after the critically acclaimed debut Cannibals With Cutlery, but this does not mean they will please everyone.
Opener Compare Scars and following Love Is Not Control are two indie anthems, with their upbeat rhythm, catchy melody and a chorus that easily sticks in your mind. They remind me of indie-folk heroes Noah And The Whale, especially of their third album, Last Night on Earth, with its euphoric melodies and well-crafted arrangements. Oh My Love is a ballad in which Pelleymounter’s voice goes up and down, is low and gravelly at the beginning as it is booming in the second half of the song; its lyrics show TKAK’s typical black humor (“Oh my love/ One day they’re going to put me in the ground”), accompanied by a fanfare towards the end. The Chancer starts with a falsetto and goes on like a lulling nursery rhyme (“And the beat goes on, my friend? Life’s endless drum”) while Good Times (A Rake’s Progress), apart from citing painter William Hogarth (or maybe avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky?) has an unexpected gospel influence. Grace at a party has an indie rock swagger but it is followed by a disenchanting tune, World Of Joy (A List Of Things To Do), very boring – despite the title. The first two songs are without any doubt the stand-out pieces of the whole album, although the very last track, Today, is surprisingly beautiful. It makes me think of Devendra Banhart’s acoustic acts.
These 11 tracks mark a sort of stairway to hell – sweet and tempting at the beginning, dissatisfying at the end, even though Today is a gem. The record is well produced but three appealing and easy to sing along songs are too few to go above 3.5 (which still is pretty good, obviously). Last but not least, the cover art is remarkable. It is a photograph by Debbie Scanlan and is clearly referred to the name of the band and thus to the title of the album itself, since it shows a game of chess between two men – actually, father and son, which makes the image even more evocative.