IN THE BLUE CORNER - King Automatic (Voodoo Rhythm)
One-man bands playing garage gloop are more common than beer bellies at a brewery birthday bash, so what's the buzz on French exponent King Automatic that could make you give a shit? It's the songs, stupid. These tunes are the King's best to date and they're delivered with more than enough rough-edged, Gallic charm to convince most that he's fronting a full band. Even allowing for essential studio overdub magic and some well-placed male and female backing vocals, King Automatic moves through his arsenal of guitar, drums, keys, harmonica and voice with the ease of a trained killer.
The trick of pulling it off and making it stick is in the feels employed, and King Automatic moves from organ-powered tattered lounge blues-vamp on "Moodswings" to the fuzz-and-piano-propelled garage stomp of "King Takes Queen" with rhythmic feet anchored to the pedals. "Mighty Sword Of Truth" shifts the playing field to syncopated blues-beat, just to mix it up, but this is an album whose tempos either swing or stutter.
"Things Are What They Are But Never What They Seem" gets in the pocket like a N'Orleans honky tonk bar band on a four-day bourbon bender, while the off-kilter clatter of "Let's Have a Party" sounds like the same crew in hair-of-the-dog mode.
"There Is No Truth In The Night" gets a noir treatment with the King putting his vocal down in the gutter. "Fake Skinheads In Love" is scattergun fuzz skronk in the finest Oblivians tradition, while "There Goes George" sounds like Madness lent him their keyboard player. There's no mistaking that rock backbeat, though.
English being the language of (most) rock and roll, the King only resorts to his native tongue on one song ("Le Redresseur De Torts") but he could sing the phone book on this one and it'd still be a killer cup of loping back-beat, shaker, harmonica and handclaps to linguistic numb nuts like me.
Voodoo Rhythm stuff is sometimes a little hard to track down but fear not; that link in the title will take you to the source so you can order direct. If you're in Australia, Off The Hip's Melbourne store should be your supplier. - The Barman
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AUTOMATIC RAY - King Automatic (Voodoo Rhythm Records)
John Schooley remarked in an interview earlier this year that one of the benefits of being in a one-man band is that you don’t have to concern yourself with the behaviour or performance of your band mates. On the flip side, Schooley noted with a sigh, “there’s no-one else to carry all your shit”. That’s an important logistical factor in how far a one-man band is prepared to challenge the outer limits of musical dexterity.
King Automatic is the solo garage trash nom de plume of Jay, drummer with French garage band Thundercrack, and occasional collaborator with Billy Childish, amongst others. King Automatic’s tools of the trade include (but are not necessarily limited to) the kick drum, snare, hi hat, farfisa organ, samples, guitar and Jay’s own ravaged vocals.
The opening track – listed as “Drive to Fast”, though I assume that’s a spelling error created in translation from the French – is a scene setting track if ever there was one. It’s like jumping in a mate’s car after everyone’s had a skinful and screeching off into the distance without a care for one’s future on earth (which, just to make it clear, is incredibly stupid behaviour and inherently more dangerous than listening to this CD). It’s a breakneck journey that may well be aimed at weeding at those punters who don’t have the internal composition to cope with King Automatic’s solo attack.
“Waitress Problem” sees the organ in action for the first time – creating a four-way battle between hi-hat, drops of organ noise, industrial strength guitar noise and grating vocals. “Oversleep” is not quite as abrasive – it’s almost melodic at certain moments, the truncated 60s organ melody taking the roughest edge out of the searing rock guitar solo that appears mid-song.
“It won’t start” – maybe based on the deranged mutterings of a driver driven to the point of extreme frustration by a car that refuses to get moving – rests on a brutish guitar line that could be the perfect sonic representation of a car engine struggling to spring into action. “Napoli Ribbons” is the bounciest, and the longest, track on the gig courtesy of a happy-go-lucky keyboard lick; “Autistic”, in vivid contrast, opens with a soft, ambient moment before being rapidly overcome rock riff that’s riddled with moments of Stooges glory mixed with 50s rock sensibility. “Welcome to Disney World” – dominated by indecipherable vocal interruptions – is possibly the garage soundtrack Gallic critics of the French Disney World have always wanted; put it over the loudspeakers at Eurodisney and that particular piece of American imperialism would be gone forever.
“Down in Soho” is short, simple and just a bit nasty; “Rekord 2066” is a nasty journey into outer space, an acid trip that’s gone horribly wrong and caused the listener to be condemned to a Warholian interpretation of the most extreme Kubrick fantasies.
There’s a few covers thrown into the mix – my favourite is the unique take on Kraftwerk’s post-industrial “The Model”. The classic simple melody is still there, but instead of Kraftwerk’s Teutonic electronica King Automatic delivers a ragged trashcan assault that could have been produced originally had Kraftwerk written and produced the song in the worst heavy metal polluted factory areas of the former Easter Europe. Devo’s “Mongoloid” gets a similarly faithful, but different treatment, and would (I guess with no confirmation) be appreciated by Mothersbaugh, Casale et al as an appropriate contemporary interpretation of Devo’s before-its-time commentary on the impact on contemporary technology on social relationships.
“I don’t give a fuck” and “Sugar Ray” are live recordings, demonstrating that the recorded sounds barely differs one iota from the extreme white garage noise of the live sound; the former is another illustration of the inherent beauty that lies within one man’s garage; the latter could take you down a path into perpetual hypnotic oblivion.
Voodoo Rhythm has the best record company marketing slogan I’m aware of – "music to ruin any party". King Automatic would ruin most parties with his unadulterated assault on the sonic sensibilities of most listeners. But those that endure the attack would form a community that would be bound with the closest of bonds. - Patrick Emery
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