It’s been a topsy-turvy year for royalty in the world of folk music, and for kings especially. After The Decemberists, newly kitted out in rural country garb, announced with their early 2011 release that The King Is Dead, the band then appeared to do a complete u-turn and resurrect the old bastard for their recent EP release, Long Live The King. But the portents don’t look good for the newly risen monarch – whoever the hell he is – because London-based outfit To Kill A King have come traipsing onto the folk rock scene with seriously crooked intent.
On the surface at least, it might be easy to assume that this latest British folk act owe much to the recent success of the Brit Award winning Mumford & Sons – especially with TKAK actually signing to Ben of Mumford’s Communion Records – but truth be told, one listen to To Kill A King is enough to convince you they’ll be turning heads thanks to a distinctive voice that is very much their own.
Many of you may already be acquainted with these lads, who originally came together up in Leeds, because of the single they dropped earlier in the year, Fictional State. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to check it out. Lead song-writer / urban story-teller Ralph Pelleymounter doesn’t pussyfoot around, delving right into real-life issues like abortion and domestic violence, to a background of graceful acoustics, some marvellously executed swells of cymbals and brass, and then one corker of a cathartic ending. As introductions go, it’s a belter.
And now, in anticipation of an LP release in 2012, we get this four track EP, My Crooked Saint.
Like Fictional State, these four songs are firmly rooted in English urban settings, brought vividly to life by Pelleymounter’s deft knack for producing poetic, almost Swiftian, observations of the real-life characters in the world around him. His rumbling baritone, accompanied by the band’s rich orchestral surges, bring a certain grandeur to potentially bleak inner-city scenes, as he paints tangible pictures of bloody earlobes and elderly ladies singing songs that resound “down our estate”. This is a band that engage with the people, traditions and tragedies that make up our everyday lives and address these experiences with an endearing nostalgia for the human beings at their heart.
I don’t dare be as patronising as to say To Kill A King sound mature beyond their years but, seriously, when Pellymounter is singing it kind of makes me feel like one of my wise old ancestors has sat me down on his knee to extol a few home truths. When he’s passionately asserting “You are my blood!” on Family, it’s hard not to be suckered into believing him.
In terms of the songs themselves, Bloody Shirt, despite it’s obsession with the gory red stuff, is quite an easy-going welcome into the EP, with its fluttering guitar lines and catchy melodies. And there’s a lovely false ending that places good emphasis on the song’s real strength… the vocal harmonies.
My favourite song though, has to be Wrecking Crew; a song chronicling the effects of alcohol addiction and pushing the band’s sound beyond the folk rock sensibilities that drive the other tracks on here. With Pelleymounter’s deep, mournful delivery and the shrill, hurtling guitar solos, this one actually reminds me a little of why I fell in love with early Interpol. The bass is also working wonders on this track, setting the tone for the songs relentless pace, as it crashes recklessly from one chorus into the next.
For optimum enjoyment of this EP, you might want to check out the Youtube link below. The videos for all four songs make up some sort of mind-boggling interlinked narrative, which is going to need a few more watches before I finally get my head round it.
Look out for an album release next year.
Ch-Check It Out If You’re Partial To – British folk rock; Mumford & Sons; Turn on the Bright Lights… for one song at least; the poetry of Jonathan Swift; bleak nostalgia; recalling the colourful characters that have made up your life
My Crooked Saint – Full Length video: