King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

Well into a decade’s worth of an impressive career, it seems as if King Khan is slowing down a bit.  Not only does this reference his musical output, but also the pacing of the songs on the latest King Khan & the Shrines record, Idle No More.  The psychotic garage/blues infusion seems much more reined in here, leaving some great slow burners, but nothing with the frenetic energy of previous albums.

“Born to Die” opens with a sitar, which seems like the perfect prelude to a booty-shaking track from King Khan, yet it never goes quite in that direction. Sure, there’s some pedal work on the guitar and a bit of a stomp, but there’s no ferocity here; it’s rather a tame song, though by means a bad one.  Unfortunately, that seems to be the theme on this record: good tracks, though nothing great. “Bite My Tongue” follows, and it floats along in a similar manner as its predecessor.  It’s got parts that are fairly catchy, lyrically speaking, but musically, it seems to miss that killer punch that you’d get from a song like “Torture.”  However, the R&B influenced tracks are much stronger and focused, making them the standout tunes on the album.

Yes, KK has always had a huge soul/R&B influence, but I think one of his most successful takes comes on Idle No More in the form of “Darkness.”  I love how the track barely moves beyond guitar and vocals until the 1 minute mark where you get the emotional release from the introduction of horns and light percussion.  Of course, it lurks back into its quiet form, but that again builds towards that soulful explosion.  And, as if we needed more proof of the group’s love for classic R&B, then you don’t have to go further; “Pray for Lil” is waiting for you.  It’s definitely got the Shrines working the horn section, and King Khan bringing his own vocal touches, but the main vocal performance is remarkable.  It might just be my favorite track on the LP.

I don’t want to be too harsh on King Khan & the Shrines because there’s a lot of music on here that I really enjoy, such as “So Wild” or “Yes I Can’t.” The deviant attitude is still visible, the songwriting is successful…I just wanted more of a punch.  It’s as if Idle No More was created for more of a high school prom, rather than some dingy club filled with joyous dancers.  For me, this whole record shows a band writing good songs, but without the madness that was present in previous years, it’s just that, a good record. Not a great one.

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