Kings Of The Sun – Rock Til Ya Die

Published on September 11th, 2013

Album review: Kings Of The Sun – Rock Til Ya Die
HAVE you ever thought much about the link between rock’n’roll and testosterone?
Is it an art form linked inextricably to teenage lust, with those who persist in making it into old age condemned to just faking it?
Or is that just a convenient excuse for a huge chunk of the genre’s audience that completely loses interest in new music around the same time the obsession fades with getting its collective rocks off?
Clifford Hoad has had plenty of reasons to lose his edge. As a concept this, the first properly released Kings Of The Sun album in exactly 20 years (minimalist Daddy Was A Hobo Man sat in a vault until it was released recently), almost begs you to find tiredness, irrelevance and mediocrity.
The portents are not good. Cliff’s brother Jeff, the flamboyant frontman who delivered “Serpentine” and “Black Leather”, adheres to the second sentence of this review. After a much-publicised court appearance on drug charges, he refused to be involved.
That left Cliff to move from drums (where he was regarded as Australia’s best by the end of the eighties) to vocals and whole new band to recruit. Rhythm guitarist Dave Talon came from Rollerball, guitarist Quentin Elliott from Melbourne.
But the reverse-masked voices and opening beats of “Fire On The Mountain” are enough to wash away your cynicism in seconds. By the time the sizzling guitars chime in, you’re grinning involuntarily.
And when Cliff stars singing, it’s goosebump time. This is rock writ large. Like the volcano in the song, Kings Of The Sun have remained dormant for two decades and are, quite literally, erupting.
The opener is a chugging, riffing, southern rock-twinged anthem. They hit you with a left, then a bone-shattering right from “Rockpile”, which opens like Let There Be Rock-era AC/DC and explodes with the sort of riff that rock bands seem to have forgotten how to write.
This is a paean to what we lost overnight with the advent of grunge and the fate of so many worthy bands. “Don’t end up on the rockpile.” But there’s a happy ending: “the rock came back today”.
Indeed it has.
“Switchblade Knife” is a completely different beast, clipping along at a nice pace, boasting an infectious course and the perfect sentiment for this album – how returning to rock music after a long break allows one to “take back my life”.
“Rock Town” is another epic anthem, nothing short of devastating, propelled by Cliff’s Herculean drumming and a riff that will pin you to the wall of whichever room in which you chose to listen to it. The guitar tone on this album, and the production, is astounding and actually superior to anything Eddie Kramer coaxed out of the band two and a half decades ago.
The gems just keep coming. “Geronimo” is semi-acoustic and heartfelt, hitting exactly the right emotional buttons. And as for “Reach For The Bottle” – well, if ZZ Top were still releasing mescal-soaked songs like this, they’d be still headlining arenas. Absolutely sublime. Gobsmacking.
“Follow You Home” sounds like the long-lost Temple Gods, the Bob Spencer project, and is somewhat mid-tempo, while “Hearts Ablaze” evokes the old KOTS theme of wide open plains, cowboys and indians.
Like the Angels, AC/DC and Rose Tattoo, Kings Of The Sun have a vision that they have never veered too far from, regardless of line-up, commercial success or otherwise. It’s sort of like southern BBQ stuffed in an Aussie meat pie – Skynyrd with a short attention span. This is core rock’n’roll with the pretentious fat trimmed off.
Things get contemplative towards the end. “Tighten Your Grip” is a slightly ambiguous deathbed lament that’s a potential tear-jerker depending on your personal experience.
But the thematic core of the album is in “Never Too Late” and the title track. “It’s never too late to love somebody, it’s never too late to change your mind,” the former preaches.
The latter expresses a realisation that when youthful pursuits and shallowness fade, rock’n’roll becomes even more spiritual and essential, not less so. The answer to the charge that a return for KOTS makes no sense commercially or culturally in 2013?
“You know you gotta do it, you know you gotta try. Fight for what you’re doing, rock hard til ya die”
No other explanation necessary. This is the album of the year, one that you’ll keep going back to and will survive repeated listens and being left to foment for a week or two
Here, over the course of one rollicking hour, is material proof that we were wrong, and that Jeffrey Hoad was wrong.
Testosterone does not beget rock’n’roll. It’s the other way around.



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