Right from the get-go The King Blues’ music has defied convention. Unafraid to mix up dub bass lines, doo-wop a cappella songs, ska rhythms, Lonnie Donegan-styled skiffle, British folk and gritty poetry, theirs is a stripped-down, hot-wired one where ukuleles, acoustic guitars and melodicas feature heavily. It is punk music as it was intended – engaging, forward-thinking, all-encompassing.
The early months of 2008 saw the Hackney collective holed up in the studio making album number two, Save The World, Get The Girl, with producers Clive Langer (Madness, Dexy’s, Elvis Costello) and Peter Miles. Two years on since they cut their debut album Under The Fog and The King Blues are a changing entity. If their debut was a slogan-strewn howl of discontent against all that’s wrong with the world – albeit one jam-packed with uplifting songs – then Save The World, Get The Girl is a much more personalized take on social ills.
Recognising that pulpit-bashing preaching rarely extends beyond the converts of the punk scene, frontman Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox has poured his heart and soul into this new set of songs. Digging deep to draw on life experiences, Save The World, Get The Girl documents the rites de passage of a young man in the modern age. It is a polemical record with a conscience, a philosophy, a sense of humour and a concept.
As Itch explains: “The album tells the story of a protester who falls in love on the frontline as it were, has his heart broken, gets into drugs, then comes out of it in the end realizing that ultimately he is nothing without love. The over-riding theme then is: ‘love conquers all’.”
Save The World, Get The Girl certainly reflects the evolution of a band who have gone from being threatened with ASBOs for guerrilla performances at Canary Wharf and Westminster to shows at Wembley Arena. These days they’re viewing the bigger picture – and searching for solutions. “Initially we just wanted to be a soundtrack for the movement but now we feel that we have explored our art and opened our hearts,” says Itch. “As a result, our political ideas carry a lot more weight now.”
With a nod to the Dead Kennedys, the album was preceded by lead single ‘Let’s Hang The Landlord’, released as a split single with Flobots on August 4th. If Under The Fog was The King Blues’ equivalent of ‘White Riot’ (raw, energized, unstoppable) then this track is their ‘Stay Free’ (soulful, introspective, autobiographical).
“It’s an autobiographical story about my youth,” says Itch. “Previously I was singing about wider issues, possibly to avoid making myself vulnerable to criticism. But this time I’ve stepped things up and gone personal. There are fewer slogans and more depth. The universal truths of our music however – things we have explored in the past, like life and love – remain.”
Second single ‘My Boulder’ has already been championed by Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, who recommended it highly to his studio guest, Noel Gallagher.
Armed with a ukulele, a guitar and a commitment to politics and resistance, The King Blues began life in 2004 when Itch and Jamie Jazz began performing at squat parties and punk shows in and around London. Guitarist Fruitbag joined soon after. Inspired by the reggae-reared punk bands such as The Clash, The Specials and Operation Ivy and the growing worldwide resistance movement, they played anywhere that would have them – pavements, car parks, political rallies and on The King Blues Sound System – a mobile PA carried on a giant tricycle that the band built, allowing them to play literally anywhere. Few bands can say they genuinely come from the streets, but The King Blues are one of them.
Expanded to a six-piece live, The King Blues’ guerilla tactics, support from Radio 1’s Mike Davies and heavy road work – including tours with kindred spirits such as Anti Flag, Bedouin Soundclash and Gogol Bordello, and one record-breaking day that saw seven shows in seven towns – lead to them releasing Under The Fog with leading UK punk label Household Name.
Numerous festival slots followed before the band were signed to Field Recordings by owner Rollo of Faithless after hearing the band on a music panel at In The City. Next came the release in 2007 of two killer singles: bass-heavy dub-punk rallying cry ‘Come Fi Di Youth’ and summer ska tune (complete with some fine vocal toasting), ‘Mr Music Man’.
Today friends and supporters range from Tariq Ali to Hard-Fi, who The King Blues supported at the aforementioned Wembley Arena show in 2007 (the first time they played there was in the car park).
Never has there been a better time for a band like The King Blues than now. Politically-sussed, constantly active but never dogmatic, they are the latest in a long tradition of well-read, well-intentioned British refuseniks representing the disenfranchised youth from the ground up. With war in Iraq still raging, a Conservative leader in charge of their home city and an economy in decline, the world needs bands like The King Blues more than ever.
In years to come, when they’re asked by their grandchildren what they contributed to the course of political and social history, The King Blues can say – with great pride – they got involved. They got people thinking and, perhaps just as importantly, they got people dancing and smiling.
The King Blues album”Save The World, Get The Girl” is out now.
Click here to get a free download of the song, “Let’s Hang the Landlord”!