Thursday, November 4, 2010

November 4: King Khan & The Shrines, "Torture"

Artist: King Khan And The Shrines
Song: "Torture"
Album: The Supreme Genius Of King Khan And The Shrines
Year: 2008

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)

Though they are perhaps the most rare type of band in history, there are a few groups scattered across the decades that are so far beyond any of their peers, it is almost unfathomable to consider the fact that throughout their careers, they lived in relative obscurity.  While many may think this to be a thing of the past due to the ease of access that the internet has provided, there are yet bands that seem to fall through the cracks.  It is almost tragic how few people are aware of the wild, genre-defying musical mayhem that is King Khan And The Shrines, as they are without question one of the most talented and exciting bands making music today.  Formed out of a handful of bands from Canada and Germany, King Khan And The Shrines bring a brilliant blend of garage-rock styled, psychedelic r&b.  While there are other bands attempting such a sound in the modern music scene, none of them even hold a flame to the power and presence of King Khan And The Shrines.  Having released a handful of albums over the past decade on a few different labels, the group lived up to the title of their extraordinary 2008 release, The Supreme Genius Of King Khan And The Shrines.  Filled with more than a dozen blistering tracks, the album stands for everything that makes rock music pure fun, and the total package that is King Khan And The Shrines can be summed up in their phenomenal 2006 song, "Torture."

The instant "Torture" begins, two things are completely obvious.  One, the song title is in no way related to the listener experience, and two, King Khan And The Shrines have clearly studied their music history and understand how to perfectly balance all of their influences.  The fast paced, deep groove is almost reminiscent of Sly & The Family Stone, yet there is a much more aggressive groove, making it a completely new sound.  The mood of song lives within the gritty, dirty guitar riff played by Til Timm, and it is this element that gives a clear nod to the great British rock bands of the mid-1960's.  Yet there is also a clear nod to the punk explosion a decade later with the riff, and these two sounds coexist in amazing fashion on the song.  Adding in a full, bright, slightly distorted horn section takes the overall impact of "Torture" to a level unmatched by any other contemporary artist, and "Torture" may very well be the greatest attempt at the "lo fi" rock revival.  The song never loses its pace, starting anew with the same overwhelming energy with each verse, and the bridge section pushes things to a frenzied state, and no listener can help but be completely swept up by the mood and music found on "Torture."  As the guitar trades musical phrases with the horn section, elements of Motown are clearly in the picture, and bringing all of these styles together in a single song is wht makes "Torture" such an extraordinary musical achievement.

Though his stage name is a play on his real name, King Khan (AKA Arish Ahmad Khan) brings with him the power and presence of the legendary film character that his name so closely resembles.  Standing as perhaps the only performer capable of fronting the runaway-train power of the music over which he sings, the attitude and energy that he brings to the vocals capture the spirit of the bands' live performances, and one can also feel just how much he is enjoying every moment.  Falling somewhere between heavy metal screaming and soul shouting, Khan's vocals are nothing short of phenomenal, and during the verses of "Torture," he sounds as if he would fit in perfectly in the late 60's music scene.  Working in brilliant harmony with the sound of Khan's voice and the music behind him, the lyrics to "Torture" are some of the finest of their time, and Khan goes back to the age old idea of "love is torture" for his inspiration.  With phrases like, "...I didn't think your love could hurt me so bad, but let me tell you baby it's the best I ever had," the band again blends a timeless sentiment with a grit and power that is unquestionably modern.  Later in the song, one cannot think Khan "happened" to kick off the verse with the phrase, " the midnight hour...," and this is yet another link to his inspiration, and the overall performance he gives on "Torture" certainly does justice to all those from whom he learned.

While there are a number of bands in the current music scene that attempt to bring the power and sound of the late 60's/early 70's soul-funk-rock sound, there are none that succeed in the same way as one finds in the music of King Khan And The Shrines.  Whether it is the almost overwhelming wall of sound they bring to each track or the completely unrestrained, full tilt energy that comes with it, the band proves on every song that they are one of the most potent bands on the planet today.  From the stinging horns to the ripping guitar, one cannot help but get caught up in the mood of their songs, and in each track, it is easy to imagine the mind-blowing experience that is their live shows.  Boasting one of the finest rhythm sections in modern music, regardless of the pace of the song, the groove is always strong and deep, and there are many moments that put a number of funk bands to shame.  Taking all this into account and adding in the intangible element that is King Khan himself, it becomes almost impossible to ponder why they are not one of the biggest bands on the planet.  Overflowing with energy, talent, and a wonderfully honest and authentic sound, this band IS everything it means to be rock and roll.  Every song they record is nothing short of brilliant, and one is doing themselves a disservice if they do not experience firsthand the musical mastery that is King Khan And The Shrines phenomenal 2008 recording, "Torture."

No comments: