There should be a law within the world of music journalism, whereby any review written as a track by track analysis means the author is punished via a beating with a bag of oranges. However, there are some albums that really do require that attention to detail, and King Dude’s ‘Sex’ is one of those. It’s like nothing he has ever previously released; there is so much work behind this record, from everything to recording locations and vocals, to the schizophrenic switch between genres. And much like sex (good sex, at least), no two instances (or songs, in this case) are ever truly alike. So let’s forego that citrusy beating and delve into the madness that is TJ Cowgill’s sixth full length…
We begin with ‘Holy Christos’ – a good, old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll song, that’s packing heat in the riffs, with just enough dreamy disinterest in the vocals to really illicit a sense of danger. Beautiful melodies contributed by Foie Gras add another dimension entirely to this track, initially drawing the listener in for the intro, and lulling them back out as it fades. ‘Who Taught You How to Love’ is a contemporary gothic post-punk jaunt that sits somewhere between Sisters of Mercy and Type O Negative in terms of vocals. What’s most interesting is that this particular song was recorded in LA, separately from the rest of ‘Sex’, and contains the lyrics “I met her in L.A, she said she’s gonna be a movie star someday”.
After the melancholy pace of the previous song, ‘I Wanna Die at 69’ comes as somewhat of a shock to the senses. The graphic content of the lyrics, teamed with the gruffness of TJ’s voice lends a sense of crassness to an otherwise catchy and wholesome sounding Americana song. ‘Our Love Will Carry On’ is the folkiest of the songs on this record, and harks back to the ‘Burning Daylight’ era of his back catalogue. The deep and emotive lyrics set this song apart; it portrays a bleak kind of innocence when pitted against the racier tracks.
‘Sex’ goes all out punk for ‘Sex Dungeon USA’ – this will be a definite fan favourite for sure, especially if it’s played live. The guitars blast along at break neck speed, accompanied by hoarse and evil sounding vocals. You could almost two step to this one. Completely instrumental, ‘Conflict & Climax’ is textured with ambient noise, heavy duty bass and softly plucked guitars that are almost nu-wave in places. ‘The Leather One’ could easily be added onto ‘Fear’ and not sound out of place. It’s dark, it’s gritty and it’s annoyingly catchy.
‘Swedish Boys Drum’ is one of the most fun songs on the album, second only to ‘Sex Dungeon USA’. It’s astonishingly upbeat in tempo, considering the gritty subject matter of the lyrics, and once again we see the ethereal qualities of Foie Gras’ vocal utilised. ‘Prisoners’ was another song recorded separately, in Berlin this time, and TJ’s vocals take on an aggression that makes it feel as though each verse is being spat through the speakers. Foie Gras handles vocal duties entirely for the choruses, alongside an almost dreamy melody.
The last two songs of ‘Sex’ are made to feel like an encore, as we hear an announcer bringing King Dude back out onto the stage, before we hear him telling the audience to hold their applause, and then launching into ‘The Girls’. This encompasses a strange tempo and dynamic that’s unlike anything we’ve heard before from TJ and co. – a little like dirty modern indie meets 1920s speakeasy.
The album closes with ‘Shine Your Light’ – a sorrowful end to our journey, accompanied only by the mournful voice of King Dude and a piano. A heart rending ballad that’s wrought with emotion and embodies all the spirit of the likes of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. This is easily King Dude’s most ambitious record to date and he’s pulled it off beautifully. This perfectly encapsulates the complexity of the nature of both his character and music, displaying the full spectrum of just what he’s capable of. Bravo.
(9/10 Angela Davey)