Sometimes it can all be about taking a rest.
In 1990 King’s X were one of my very favourite bands, their first two LPs had burned right through me, they were so original, so different, so emotional compared to everything else that got labelled as rock and metal at the time, I’d written to them and they were nice, they had also played a couple of the best shows I’d ever seen. Their second LP Gretchen Goes To Nebraska was just an all-timer for me. So it’s fair to say that I was eagerly waiting for Faith Hope Love when it was released in October, literally, I had to wait for the record shop to open before buying it the day it came out. And then …
Faith Hope Love just fell a bit flat for me, nothing on it stood out and grabbed me the way it had previously, there wasn’t enough heaviness for me at the time. The closest was the bass-led ‘Moanjam’ which came on like an earthy faith-driven Motörhead, the rest of the album seemed like the band were concentrating more on their harmonies and melodies than their firepower – which was a shame because it was the fusing of the two that gave them such potency for me.
But let’s tour the best bits of the album. The growling bass of ‘We Are Finding Who We Are’ gives onto a great choppy Electric Ladyland vibe, Doug Pinnock’s vocal really sells this track, polished and raw. The single, ‘It’s Love’ has some great moments too, the harmonies are great and Ty Tabor plays a sky-scraping guitar solo in that strange tone he uses that could only ever be him*. I like the sheer strangeness of ‘Mr Wilson’ which benefits from some genuinely odd turns and twists and backing vox from 1537-faves the Galactic Cowboys. I’d state for the record that ‘Moanjam’ is still the best thing here by far, an act of worship that was felt not just thought out.
I struggle to find too much more on Faith Hope Love, especially on Side 2. King’s X just sound a little uninspired on their third album in three years, a lot of the second side sounds like a retread of some of their best bits and some not fully realized ideas. I find the band’s pro-Christian message much less subtle on this LP, hardly a surprise given the LP title taken from 1 Corinthians 13:13 (a beautiful passage, read at my wedding) and whilst I have no issue at all with whatever they believed then or now, I can’t help thinking that the band needed to concentrate a little more on how the message was being delivered here; especially if they were hoping to reach the heathen Welsh.
I had hoped that I would be in for a pleasant surprise revisiting Faith Hope Love, but my memories of it are pretty much what I still feel about it today, it is the album that broke the spell for me. The musicianship is, as always, excellent and it does have its moments but this still remains the LP that showed us that King’s X might just be fallible and mortal like the rest of us^; play Gretchen… after listening to it and there simply isn’t any comparison, not a single track would have made it onto the earlier album. I still saw them 3 times on the tour for the album, twice supporting AC/DC at Birmingham NEC and they were great even in that environment, best of all though was Manchester International II on 2 May 1991 (supported by Mind Funk) ‘Moanjam’ in particular was brilliant.
This is by no means a bad LP, but it suffers because King’s X were capable of so much better. I would still love to hear what the band would have come out with if they had taken a break and had a little longer to put this LP together, maybe an amalgam of Faith Hope Love and the self-titled follow-up. Whatever. I’d definitely like to think that they would never have penned the immortal lyric, ‘Fluently, the parrot speaks six languages not known to man’, guys!
Look, just go and buy Gretchen Goes To Nebraska – play it, marvel, repeat.
PS: All extracts are from The Mighty Scrapbooks of Rock! I actually kept a separate one for King’s X, that’s how much of a nerdy fan I was. I may also have been ‘between girlfriends’ at the time (and not in the more exciting meaning of the phrase).
PPS: God this is a video of its time, maybe just listen to it?
*One of my very favourite players, also the first famous dude to bump fists with me at a gig for which he will always be truly revered.
^your humble author excepted.