Magic potions, demons, filthy desires and record collections are all subjects that have long surpassed the label of rock ‘n’ roll cliché, right? Black Moon Spell, the third proper full-length from scuzz-hero King Tuff (aka Kyle Thomas) doesn’t give a crap about that though. By expanding the glam and somewhat narcissistic tendencies of Was Dead into heavier territory, Thomas has created a universe populated by stone-washed misfits who find some sort of catharsis in singing about how good they are at playing guitar. Save any eye-rolling, because Black Moon Spell works wonderfully thanks to Thomas’s unwavering charisma. For him, this isn’t an exercise in regurgitating the dusty LPs scattered on his bedroom floor, it’s a blistering celebration of all that is fun about rock.
As entertaining and accessible as the lyrical content can be, there needs to some instrumental backbone to keep these songs from going limp. Was Dead was perfectly lo-fi for the type of glam-pop that King Tuff was peddling, but this time around, everything is bigger. Guitar leads are given a proper spotlight, the drums pack a punch, choruses explode with pyrotechnic style and vocals are even assisted by some layering and back-up singers. It all still leans towards the dry, treble-y end of the spectrum, but in general there’s more noise afoot ready to stagger through your car’s tape-deck speakers. Sick Mind and Beautiful Thing are two of the album’s most convertible-ready cuts, providing excellent representations of what a little Sub Pop help can accomplish.
These are also a couple tracks that allow us to trace King Tuff’s swagger back to its roots. Beautiful Thing along with the psychedelic Eyes Of The Muse and shuffling Eddie’s Song all share grooves, structures and subject matter that could appear on the wax of any number of latter century, southern-rock inspired records. Headbanger on the other hand, explicitly (and ironically) conveys these influences by running through his infatuation with a girl whose collection includes Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. By channeling and referencing guitar-heavy bands of yesteryear, Black Moon Spell’s hazy and fun-loving atmosphere continues to expand, which allows for a bit more forgiveness towards some of Thomas’ more haphazard/overly-idiosyncratic lyrics.
I Love You Ugly is pretty juvenile even for a record that capitalizes on the simpler things in rock. Lines like, “I don’t care if your butt’s too big/I don’t care what you’ve got under that wig,” come across as something your friend’s band in middle school might write. Demon From Hell and Madness, as energized as the instrumentation is, can’t cover up the fact that we’re listening to King Tuff talk about what it’s like to be King Tuff, a topic that has already been covered in his Was Dead lecture. Though they are both far from unlistenable, they simply serve to add filler to an album that is powerful and lengthy enough not to need it.
But if you can glaze over the four total minutes that those three aforementioned songs occupy, what’s left is an all-around good time. From the stuttered and repetitive start of the title track, to the final acknowledgement that, “Forever’s not very long/So I just keep on singing ‘Eddie’s Song,'” we’re in King Tuff’s world: a sweaty, denim and leather-clad land filled with scuffed vinyl sleeves and shit-eating grins. And even in his less inspired moments, we stick around, because the dude running the show is as charming as he is talented.