Thursday, April 10, 2014
KXM - KXM
KXM is the best album of the year so far. If you like top-shelf hard rock, go buy it. Trust me.
KXM is a supergroup of musicians that, whilst great talents, aren't exactly household names. Guitarist George Lynch almost played for Ozzy Osborne but got beaten to it by some guy called Randy Rhoads, and ended up with Dokken and Lynch Mob, amongst other things. Bassist/singer dUg Pinnick (his spelling, not mine) made his name with King's X, a band who have garnered a cult following over the past 25+ years. Drummer Ray Luzier is the only member I'm familiar with, from his work on the Army of Anyone album with the deLeo brothers from Stone Temple Pilots and Richard Patrick from Filter. He's probably better known for his work with David Lee Roth, and as Korn's current drummer.
So yeah, supergroup, you know the drill, this could go either way. Either their powers combine to produce something awesome, or their egos collide to produce something terrible.
The good news is that KXM is most definitely the former. This is a stonkingly good hard rock record.
There's so much to like about this album, and so much of that is to do with the fact that it comes from three talented guys who have played a lot of music, with a lot of acts, and have clearly learnt a few things in the process.
Opening track Stars is a prime example. It starts with tribal drums from Luzier, a tightly wound riff that Lynch accentuates just a little bit at the right moments, and you think it's going to be a heavy, dense, bleak opener. All of sudden, the mood changes to optimism for the chorus, led by Pinnick's vocals, like a ray of light breaking through on a cloudy day. It's a pretty major dynamic shift, but it flows perfectly because these guys know just how to play it, to make it work.
Another example is some of the phenomenal riffs on this record. In part, that's because they are actually obscenely good riffs, but it's also because KXM know not to overplay them in the song - using them just the right amount, at just the right points to really maximise their impact. Case in point, Human Friction. The first 50 seconds is atmospheric, but slowly swells to the point where you know something big is going to happen, and then BAM! The payoff riff hits you and it is glorious. A couple of spins, and it's into the verse, but you know it's coming back, you're waiting for it - and BAM! There it is again. A triumph of timing and tact.
Speaking of tact, Ray Luzier's playing is just outstanding on this record. It's easy to sit back and appreciate the sheer drive he provides, but listening closely provides an experience in itself, especially on the (brilliant) closing instrumental Tranquilize. So many great fills and clever details lurking there to be discovered - but they're never in your face, never overshadowing the song or the other players.
Actually, that's perhaps what shines most brightly about this album - the balance between guitar, bass, vocals and drums is just so tight. There's a sense of unity, of everything working together, throughout the record - you can go listening for individual instruments in the mix if you want, or you can just sit back and let the whole glorious wall of rhythm, melodies and counter-melodies wash over you. This could only be the work of three talented guys who are all very much on the same page (and probably a decent producer too).
Clearly the musicianship is great but, crucially, so are the songs. There's a good balance (there's that word again) of upbeat numbers and mid-tempo grooves, broken up by a couple of slower, more reflective numbers - the acoustic ballad Never Stop and the very lyrically-pointed Sleep.
My personal favourites include the pacy, harmony-laden I'll Be OK (which features a great solo from Lynch), single Rescue Me, the dynamic shifts and clever interplay of Do It Now, the intensely groovy Human Friction and the stomping, catchy Faith is a Room, which basically showcases everything I've said about this album in one particularly excellent track.
But having said that, this is an album with no filler tracks - it's an end-to-end listen. Like I said at the start, if you're a fan of really well-written, well-played hard rock, trust me and just go buy it.