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Over My Head
(King’s X and I: It’s Love, Man)
By Jim Wormington

King’s X is: 
Doug Pinnick, bass and lead vocals
Ty Tabor, guitar and lead vocals
Jerry Gaskill, drums and vocals

On September 22, 2009, I saw King’s X open the show for featured band Porcupine Tree. Sorry to say, the sound mix for King’s X that night was awful. They might as well have performed with all their equipment chained in a dungeon below the Vic Theatre--it was that muddy. 

This was a serious pity, because I’ve seen King’s X perform live at least eight times, and when their sound is crisp and clean, the three-headed rock monster they unleash has never failed to vigorously oscillate my groove molecules. That’s a very good thing, if you’re wondering. 

But this article is not about crummy sound, nor is it about how precisely fine-tuned Porcupine Tree’s sound was (hm, funny thing), this article is about why I am a King’s X fan of Pleiadean (which is to say, “large”) proportion. 

Oh, let’s just say it, without shame, for the whole world to hear: I love King’s X.

Love is a strong word you say, and I say you’re right. But if you don’t get how such a thing is possible--how a grown man can love a rock band--well, then, rock and roll music doesn’t play nearly as important a part in your life as it does in mine. That’s the simple truth of that.

Before I gush with absurd rock-love for them, I will make one very brief and unenthusiastic stab at journalistic objectivity, confined to the following single paragraph. 

King’s X can get repetitive and plod on a bit. They’ve composed more than a few five, six, and seven-plus minute songs that ought to have been edited down to three-and-a-half or four minutes. I don’t love every album equally. Manic Moonlight and Black Like Sunday are, for my money, their weakest efforts by far; a lot of slush on these two discs that ought to have remained unreleased. Must admit, also, that there are songs I’ll skip over when listening through certain albums. You, correctly, anticipate a hardy “however.” Here it comes. 

HOWEVER, when all the tumbling dice fall just right, when strings and sticks and vocal chords are converging in sweet, unified King’s X-ian bliss, these three guys have me at measure one. (This would be the point at which you can assume objectivity has been jettisoned in favor of something far higher: unadulterated, all-encompassing, sycophantic fan worship.) 

What consistently brings me back to this band’s music? Here’s the profound secret: they’ve written a lot of great songs and a fair number that are practically perfect. Allow me to expound. 

While many point to Dogman as King’s X best overall effort, I humbly submit that they are mistaken. Their self-titled album, for me, is the high water mark. Eight of eleven tracks on King’s X are outstanding. “The World Around Me,” “Prisoner,” “The Big Picture,” and “Lost in Germany” are pretty much flawless (the four opening cuts on this disc). 

Try this King’s Exercise. Pop on the headphones, crank these four songs up loud as you can bear, then sit back and tune out the real world for the next seventeen minutes of your life (the real world was just hassling you anyway, so you’ve got nothing to lose). What will you discover? Lovely, hard-edge, unique guitar riffs and chordage. Spot on, intriguing vocal harmonies. Exquisite power-drumming. Sweet lead guitar romps. Custom-fit, heart prodding, bass guitar work. Intelligent, thoughtful lyrics. All this, then, rolled into powerful, moving compositions. Everything works here. Everything rocks.

If you do this exercise and don’t experience several moments of stunned rock-nirvana, if you don’t wonder how it is you’ve managed to miss the awesome ride available on the King’s X train--then either you don’t like progressive rock or you and I are not of the same species. Pick one.

The album Faith, Hope, Love comes in a close second. When I listen all the way through it, my head’s gonna hurt a little from all the bobbing. It transports me every time, and I like where it takes me.

You wanna make a best of King’s X mix? I’ll give it to you (I’m album hopping here): “Dogman,” “Cigarettes,” “Manic Depression” (Hendrix cover), “It’s Love,” “We Are Finding Who We Are,” “Summerland,” “The Difference,” “Charlie Sheen,” “Bitter Sweet,” “Fade,” “Little Bit of Soul,” “Mr. Evil,” “Fly,” “Get Away,” “Goldilox (Reprise),” “Mississippi Moon,” “Lies in the Sand,” “Bad Luck,” “Julie,” and “Pray.” Don’t forget to add the four previously mentioned cuts off the self-titled album.

Though King’s X toured with some Christian acts (long ago), they are not a Christian band. You will find their lyrics are full of spiritual tension and language, but do not look for them to guide you to the Light. They will, however, faithfully guide you to the rock. 

Ultimately, what is it that sets King’s X apart?

It’s the gut-honesty, the heart and soul, which lead vocalist/bassist Doug Pinnick brings. It’s Ty Tabor’s endless compositional imagination and phantasmagoric lead work. It’s Jerry Gaskill’s relentless, dead-on, drum kit attack. It’s the three-part harmonies with unapologetic Beatles influence. It’s (not always, but often) the provocative lyrics. 

It’s three dudes blurring into one entity. An entity that rocks me to my immortal, hard-rock-lovin’ soul.

It’s love, man. I just had to let you know.


Copyright © 1996 - 2009 The Phantom Tollbooth