The King Blues are fighting back, and they’re f**king angry; at least that’s the claim on their third full length album, Punk & Poetry. The band return with a line up change and a more mainstream sound as the acoustic feel of previous albums is replaced by electric guitars and keyboards. The opening track ‘Last of The Dreamers’ claims “this is for the outcasts, the freaks and the schemers”, and while the strong political message implied in songs like ‘Set The World On Fire’ are likely to appeal to those who turn up to peaceful protests to throw bricks through windows, the band have seen themselves build a following of people from all walks of life. Punk & Poetry is an entertaining romp through the many sub categories filed under ‘punk’ with a great diversity of sound and influences that are mostly linked by the distinct style of vocalist Johnny ‘Itch’ Fox, former Big Issue seller turned voice of a generation.
The album opens strongly with a trio of songs which herald a call to arms for anyone disillusioned with the way the country is run, and lyrics like “hang the judge and kill the jury, come alive and use your fury” and “I wanna set the world on fire, watch it all burn down, we can start again” show that they’re not messing about. Recently playing to a large under-18 crowd in Kingston shows that The King Blues are spreading their message to a young audience that will perhaps be able to change the way the world works. Even if you’re not in agreement with their anarchist ideals the album is still certainly worth a listen and Itch’s to-the-point lyrical prowess is likely to get anybody with a hint of liberal view inside them to start shouting about this unjust world.
After a strong opening Punk & Poetry takes a different approach with ‘Dancehall’, a short spoken word interlude with classical instrumentation which is the first hint that this is not simply a collection of angry punk songs. This is confirmed by ‘The Future’s Not What it Used to Be’, an acoustic ska lamentation to how the world is changing complete with a brass section; this track most accurately reflects the earlier sound of The King Blues until the introduction of a drum ‘n’ bass beat towards the end, adding a dancey feel similar to recent Sonic Boom Six tracks. That’s not the only place on the album the two bands sound similar; ‘Sex Education’ is a fusion of reggae and hip hop very similar to the aforementioned SB6 and King Prawn which highlights sex education (or lack of) in the UK. Other than ‘Shooting Fascists’, a ukulele and spoken word track aimed at certain right wing groups that claims “your granddad didn’t vote for fascists he shot ’em” and the full-on punk ballad ‘Does Anybody Care About Us’, the rest of the album is full of what has become The King Blues‘ most distinct sound of late, which has both popularised them while bemusing Radio 1 DJs who don’t seem too keen. A good example of this is ‘Headbutt’ which ticks all the boxes; a head nodding verse and a catchy chorus with an uplifting vibe that explains why The King Blues are currently taking the UK by storm.
The King Blues are just one of many UK bands that fuse punk, ska and politics, sitting nicely alongside Sonic Boom Six, Suicide Bid and The Skints, but with Punk & Poetry they’ve managed to create a more mainstream sound that will go down a treat at the festivals this summer. Don’t let the strong politics of the album put you off. Give it a listen and you too may find your inner-anarchist. This is a call for the youth of the world to stand up against corruption, fascism, sexism and prejudice, sung over an eclectic mix of sub-genres which has a message to put across but sounds good doing it.