Kings Go Forth revisit a time before the sound of black American music was radically reshaped by hip-hop's meteoric rise to prominence. They play a form of rhythm and blues far removed from the hyperactive, mechanistic songs that have dominated the genre for the last ten years. Their sound is warm, comfortable and upbeat; it has roots in sixties soul and seventies funk. A combination of songwriting nous, instrumental chops and winning positivity ensure that the results are consistently enjoyable.
The Outsiders Are Back never tries to push boundaries or forge a new sound. Instead the band work hard at establishing boundaries, at (re)creating a distinctive, fully formed and developed style of music. If you enjoy contemporary rhythm and blues precisely because it can sound alien and futuristic, you may regard this as problem, but you shouldn't. The band are consummately skilled musicians and songsmiths, and even the most scrupulous avoider of backwards-looking music will surely find something to enjoy in their sound. The more time you spend with album, the more you'll find to enjoy. After a while you'll really come to appreciate the way Jeremy Kuzniar's subtly excellent drumming propels tracks like 'Paradise Lost', and the fluid conga playing on 'Don't Take My Shadow'. You'll notice the lively, celebratory sound of the brass instruments, and the vibrancy of Dan Flynn's funky guitar riffs. You'll come to love how most of the songs cleverly achieve a carefree, upbeat feel via skilful songwriting and careful arrangements.
Singer Black Wolf, a veteran of seventies R&B groups, is considerably older than his bandmates; indeed, he attended high school with the parents of percussionist Cecilio Negron, Jr. Much has been made of his background in those groups, presumably as it lends Kings Go Forth 'authenticity'. Well, authenticity is no recommendation by itself, and plenty of terrible bands have played music which is, in some sense, 'authentic'. Black Wolf is a great vocalist not because he's an authentic seventies rhythm and blues singer, but because he has an interesting, soulful voice which perfectly complements his bandmates' music. His best moment is also one of the album's best moments: the defiant falsetto which elevates the already excellent 'You're The One' into something especially memorable. Similarly, Kings Go Forth are not a great band merely because of some nebulous claim to authenticity. Sure, it helps that they have an obvious connection to and affinity with the music they play, that they don't sound like hobbyists paying tribute to a dead genre but like an actual seventies R&B band who have somehow been stranded in 2010. Ultimately though, they're a great band because they're talented musicians with impressive songs.