Power pop pusher man King Tuff—whose eponymous 2012 release wasn’t his hand-to-God debut, despite all appearances—has now, in connection with Burger Records, re-released a sought-after freshman recording in Was Dead, originally taped in a dank Va. ballroom in 2006. Scenesters and music hunters of the moment, likely jaded at a shit blizzard of records with the “more reverb!” approach, found respite in King Tuff’s neat, back-to-basics songwriting. And now us unwashed masses, spared the street-cred Easter egg hunt of finding its first-edition pressing on a Ugandan auction site for $600, can safely download Was Dead for a nominal fee while wearing fuzzy slippers, no less.
Now, now! Were the tastemakers justified? Generally, yes. Was Dead is a clean, 13-cut song set of timeworn, instantly digestible popcraft with nary an entry over three minutes. Given to a musical neurologist for examination, its brain follows a tri-fold schematic: There’s the T. Rexital lobe, to which we may attribute the elfin Chuck Berry shtick of “Ruthie Ruthie,” the Televisionum, whose scruffy, Verlaine-like wiring is the likely producer of “Laserbeam” and—at the helm of the whole nervous system—you’ll find the Queercortex, which, aside from accounting for the effete addictiveness of “Dancing on You,” issues untold millions of neuronal commands à la the chiffon punk of Hunx and His Punx, who’ve been known to tour with King Tuff, not so coincidentally. Examined as a whole, Was Dead is, indeed, a beautiful mind.
However, for an album twee as it is carefree, you’ll find your share of filler. “Animal,” despite an amusing, Bolan-style “yow!” here and there, sounds like the lyrics were written in about 30 seconds—assuming they were written down at all and not summoned between bong hits—and “Stone Fox” fails only in how dimly it shines relative to its bejeweled brethren. Still, Mr. Tuff’s given us 13 affable, no-frills garage tunes coming at little over a half hour, and if his effortless style, the very engine to this showing’s charm and success, should occasionally verge on “too effortless,” who’s a humorless sop for complaining? Probably the guy who forwent the Ugandan auction and downloaded this music in his fuzzy slippers.