Twenty five years ago – on March 28 1988, Kings X released their debut album Out Of The Silent Planet out into a very noisy world. The majority of the planet was busy making lots of noise, and has still yet to notice. However, for some, Kings X were spoken about as The Future of Rock. Their extraordinary music took rock music in new directions – and they were certainly an antidote to the hair metal bands of the day.
Kings X announced a London show at The Marquee in Charing Cross Road shortly after Out Of The Silent Planet was released, and I heard their call. Although I didn’t have the album, I thought I would go along and check them out.
The first cheer of the night came when the PA announcer explained he had asked the band how to pronounce their name. “It’s Kings Ex, rather than Kings Cross” he explained to a British crowd who were more familiar with the train station.
The three piece nervously took the stage. After the first song, I wasn’t sure if I liked them. They were very different to the likes of Aerosmith and AC/DC. But it only took until the third song to realise Kings X might have something special. As the hour long set climaxed, the audience turned The Marquee into the loudest building on the planet and raised its roof. The crowd were on their feet (it was an all-standing venue, so that’s damning them with faint praise a bit) and baying for more. Kings X had played their debut album almost in its entirety, had played a new song (‘Mission’) and then a very fast instrumental that would be released a few years later as ‘Moanjam’.
After several encores, they came out onto the stage to acknowledge probably the most ecstatic crowd I had ever witnessed and mouthed “We don’t know any more songs” to try to placate them. I thought to myself, even a noisy planet will soon know all about this band…
I bought the album, and it neatly slotted into my “Best albums of 1988” list.
Like the Seattle based bands that followed them, Kings X tuned their guitars low to give a bass heavy, grungy sound. They were no Nirvana though. The three piece blended deep, crunchy guitar riffs with gospel-like yet Beatles-tinged vocals and liquid rhythms. It sounded like nothing else that had been before.
Lead vocalist and bass player Doug Pinnick, in contrast did look like something that had been before, what with his military jacket and Wild Man of Borneo hair. He dressed like Hendrix with a mohican, but sang like no-one else.
A year later Kings X released a new album, Gretchen Goes To Nebraska. It was even better than the debut. They announced another gig at The Marquee. The noisy planet began to sit up and take notice of this odd-looking three piece with their tuned-down guitars, lush harmonies and wild solos.
Once again Kings X reduced The Marquee to mere rubble. It was an amazing performance, the kind that people count alongside the birth of their children, their wedding day or the time they defeated M Bison with a perfect score in Streetfighter II as a key moment in their lives. The stage diving that went on during the gig was extraordinary. People were just jumping onstage during the songs and launching themselves back onto the outstretched hands of the packed crowd. It resembled a David Attenborough documentary about lemmings at its peak. I looked up and there were two members of Anthrax joining in the stage diving, soaring over my head with huge grins on their faces. I have never before or since seen members of other rock bands stage diving at another band’s gig. This is a shame. How good would it be to see Justin Beiber stage diving into a Slipknot crowd – or perhaps even better – members of Slipknot at a Bieber gig?
So what happened to Kings X: the Future of Rock? Grunge happened.
Simply put, grunge turned out to be the future of rock instead. Sometimes that’s just how it goes.
Kings X’s guitarist Ty Tabor had an unusual guitar sound and style. But Kings X were not a grunge band. And after Nirvana conquered, although Kings X continued to make some excellent albums (Faith Hope Love, Dogman, Ear Candy), these perhaps lacked the impact of the first two records, and their moment had passed. That noisy planet carried on its business, listening to something else instead. It was the planet’s loss.
Record #172 : Kings X – In The New Age
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