Review of I Was A King's self-titled album released through Hype City Recordings.
They've got a fuzz box and they're gonna use it. Not only that but also a whole mountain of distortion, quite a healthy dose of reverb and some seriously feral feedback. And there's more.... Not content with a sound all of their own they have cunningly cajoled collaborations from a very select, aspirational and contemporary troupe of musicians. The 'they' in question are Norway's finest musical export of the moment 'I Was A King'. (We've yet to see whether this might about to be surpassed in May as Norway is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest then).
Hailing from Egersund, but at home in Oslo, 'I Was a King' combine an almost unhealthy passion and preoccupation for all things Teenage Fanclub together with a mixture of guitar and drum driven, dirty, and at times venomous, curiosities. Their eponymous album is the follow up to their glowingly received debut 'Losing Something Good For Something Better'. It's not exactly new, having already been released in America in the summer of 2009, and having been toured in the U.S. and Europe. A long time in coming then but here at last.
Apart from the connections made to similar bands around at the inception of Teenage Fanclub, namely Dinosaur Jnr, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, 'I Was A King' have not been wholly restrictive in soaking up musical reference and influence. There is almost a genuine naivety to each little bit of borrowing or 'interpretation'. The Beach Boys may be able to hear their harmonious influence through Frode Stromstad's vocal delivery, and Jack White could recognise some of his non too considerable power chord guitar influence on tracks like 'A Name That Hurts To Say' but when IWAK combine the two is where they really begin to work. Mixing their various influences to make a sound that is all their own is where this album wins you over. The late 80's meet classic 60's where James meets the Small Faces to dance you away on 'Stay Warm'. Lifting Dave Grohl's drumming straight out of a Nirvana track is what makes 'Not Like This' jump out at you, it's a glorious pastiche on Seattle Grunge. The near 'Lady Grinning Soul' piano intro on 'It's All You' teases you into the dateless pop/rock of the song. Bowie referenced again, but only in song name, 'Golden Years' combines IWAK's energy and enthusiasm with a blend of soft psychedelia to pull off another awkward, and tricky, potential gamble.
The augmentation of the bands number by collaborators including Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson) and Ladybug Transistor's Gary Olson have no doubt helped make this record more interesting and creative. The heady mix of influence from all manner of the musical spectrum make it a fascinating and provoking conundrum. The raw energy and vibrancy of the band shine through. If anything the final mixing, by Nick Terry (Former hired hand to The Klaxons/Libertines/Primal Scream), does let it down a little. Some of the album does sound as if it were recorded in a barrel! (It was in fact recorded in New York, at Marlborough Farms where no barrels were used).
IWAK are in the UK in February showcasing their 'new' album, firstly at The Windmill in Brixton on the 25th. Their live performance is very highly rated and can be sure to be full of passion. Catch them if you get chance. If you won't I'm sure a Norwegian would! (Sorry couldn't resist).