Hailing from Los Angeles, California, King Washington release their debut album ‘The Gears’ just in time for the summer: cue convertibles with roofs down and stereos high. Due to their polished brand of rock ‘n’ roll, comparisons with west-coast giants of yesteryear are easy to make, but this quartet have far more on offer than their musical ancestors; the members of King Washington are scholars in the arts.
Lead singer and principal songwriter Tyson Kelly may be the son of Tom Kelly (the man behind such hits as Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ and The Bangles ‘Eternal Flame’) but he has credentials of his own. Not only a graduate of the New York Film Academy, Kelly is a forerunner in the niche market that is the Beatles tribute act, being one of the most sought after John Lennon impersonators in the world. Kelly’s cohorts Dylan Cronin, George Krikes and Kyle Turek are no less impressive. Cronin, King Washington’s bassist, is a multi-instrumentalist with a degree from the Studio Jazz Guitar program at USC’s Thornton School of Music, while Krikes, the lucid lead guitarist of the group, also has a degree from the same school. Both accomplished vocalists, their warm harmonies create the melodic backbone of the King Washington sound. Turek completes the foursome with his consummate, driving percussion.
Simultaneously intelligent and listenable, the album takes a large chunk of its material from the band’s ‘Part Of It’ EP released earlier this year. The opening title track starts proceedings with a gentle guitar as harmonised vocals bleed into the mix. The vocal refrain “You and I were part of it” then signals the moment at which the band kick off. The listener is taken on a sonic ride that sounds familiar, but undoubtedly new and refreshing. Fluid guitar coupled with a genuinely catchy melody and a thumping rock backing makes for an arresting cut. To top it off, there’s a superb guitar solo from Krikes, who is able to mix the feel of Eric Clapton and the technicality Eddie Van Halen with an added restraint that eluded both those players. His playing may be the highlight of the album.
‘Fourth of July’ starts with a dirty blues-rock groove, before descending into a surf rock extravaganza. A harpsichord, courtesy of Cronin, adds an extra layer to an already interesting chorus. Other standout tracks include ‘Bawl and Change’ that plays with time signatures and the gloriously swelling ode to guitars ‘Rosewood Angel’.
In an ideal world, King Washington would be topping the pop charts with this release. Highly melodic and intellectual without isolating the listener, one would hope that the masses would identify with these 12 tracks (sadly, this writer has little faith in the masses). This is a fascinating, if repetitive, debut, and the future looks bright for this quartet.