A few years back I Was a King burst into my life, and I couldn’t have been happier. They recalled bits of my favorite under-appreciated band, The Comas, as well as hints of Teenage Fanclub. On their latest outing, Old Friends, the group adds a few little twists to the foray, though nothing that ultimately changes the established sound of the group.
From the minute you get into opening track “The Wylde Boys,” you can tell that Old Friends will definitely have a bit of a facelift. There’s this distortion/horn jam opening the track, and in fact, it probably detracts from the band’s meat and potatoes. But, once the killer drumming jumps in appropriately and those warm hypnotic guitar lines clean things out, you’re in heaven.
Once you get into the nitty-gritty of the album, fans of amazing power-pop will definitely find themselves enjoying repeated listens. “Echoes” has a great little stomping beat that supplies perfect opportunities for the guitar to wrap itself around your eardrums. These are the type of tracks fan of I Was a King were probably expecting from this record. But, as much as these moments clearly leave you in love with the band, there are some disarming elements, at least as far as construction of the songs go.
Take the single, “Daybreak,” which would be one of my favorite songs, period, if you could only remove some odd things that just don’t belong. First, you have that thirty second intro, seemingly belonging to a Beirut demo that made the trash. Second, that damn horn! Why on Earth does a splendid band with incredible hooks add the usage of a horn to flesh out their sound? It’s reminiscent of the time Cursive included horns to their post-punk sound; it doesn’t work. Some things are better left untouched. Perhaps the band found themselves stuck in a rut, battling to push themselves in a new direction, but this might not have been the best direction one could go.
Excitingly, there are some new touches here that excite me, as a long time fan. “Snow Song” begins with some acoustic strumming, and Frode’s voice sounding as pristine as it does in the live setting. It’s not straight-ahead power-pop, and it doesn’t have to be in order for I Was a King to pull it off. This is something I probably wish the band realized more. “Old Friends,” similarly has this great little bit of swing to it, and this cool, breeze-like vocal that accompanies the entire track. It’s a great closer, and a great piece of songwriting.
Oddly, Old Friends is still a winning record. There are a few miscues here and there, but even those odd spots don’t do enough to make you forget that the combination of melody and shredding guitars never sounded as perfectly as it does here. And the drumming, the drumming is phenomenal. I Was a King might have pushed themselves for this new record, and while I may not whole-heartedly agree with every step, I can appreciate spreading out into new territory. As long as they can still write those power-pop hooks that win any reasonable listener over, they’ll continue to progress, and continue to make me a fan, day after day.
Download: I Was A King – Daybreak [MP3]