King Tuff, Jacuzzi Boys
1811 14th St. NW
Washington, DC, 20009
This event is all ages
Wavves is an American noise pop/surf punk band based in San Diego, California. Wavves started in 2008 as the recording project of Nathan Williams. Wavves released several 7″s as well as a cassette leading up to the first two releases Wavves (Woodsist) and Wavvves (Fat Possum/Bella Union). After gaining recognition Ryan Ulsh was enlisted as a touring drummer and Wavves did the first US and European tours. Wavves released their self-titled debut album in 2008, subsequently drawing the attention of Pitchfork Media. At the time, the band consisted of guitarist Nathan Williams and drummer Ryan Ulsh.
Kyle Thomas is King Tuff. He's been using that name on-and-off for a long time, but pre-2007, he was Kyle, one-eighth of the freak folk band Feathers, who made gentle, Eastern-tinged acoustic tracks. With J Mascis, he was in Witch, which had jammier, stoner rock leanings. But Thomas needed another outlet, one that was truer to his own rock'n'roll tastes: He had been writing songs since he was about 10, obsessing over guitar heroes and bands like Green Day. So he revived King Tuff, having released a few CD-R albums in the early 2000s, and turned a batch of songs written between 2003 and 2006 into the project's proper debut album, 2008's Was Dead.
It's a tight, consistent, and unbelievably catchy rock album that quickly and effectively defined who and what "King Tuff" was, stuffed with killer guitar solos, infectiously sunny hooks, and lyrics that come off like personality-defining mantras. If you were at all familiar with Thomas' other work, the immediacy of Was Dead probably came as a surprise. But this was the album he'd been hoping to make all along: "There's been a few diversions into other types of music, but I've pretty much always had a rock'n'roll heart."
The LP certainly made the rounds with garage heads, and eventually grabbed the attention of the Sub Pop offices. But by the time King Tuff was released last year, Was Dead was already out-of-print and had become a collector's item. After an initial run of CD-Rs in 2007, it came out on Colonel Records in 2008, was pressed four times, and eventually showed up on eBay for exorbitant costs. Even if it was just a couple of years old, owning a copy of Was Dead became something tangibly special. It initiated you into a club with a bunch of other weirdos, and the one thing you all had in common was one weird, great power pop album.
Its greatness definitely felt like a secret. While the garage focus at the time was on King Khan, the Black Lips, and Jay Reatard, Was Dead didn't exactly make a splash in the larger critical conversation. Thomas, of course, doesn't care about maintaining any sort of cult status he might have accidentally developed; he just wants people to hear it: "It's really flattering to be thought of as so 'collectible,' but you'd much rather that just everyone could have it."
A new reissue on Burger Records proves that, as power pop-leaning rock'n'roll albums go, Was Dead is a front-to-back masterwork. While a lot of these kinds of records work under the "peaks and valleys" principle (because even the Ramones had songs like "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), this thing is almost all peaks, one exhilarating hook after another, making for an album that begs to be blasted in a four-door with the sun shining and the windows down. It's got the hit-after-hit sequencing of Boston minus the proggy extravagance. It's legitimately tough to peg "best songs" on this album: "A Pretty Dress" and "Just Strut" are easy contenders with their saccharine melodies and fiery electric guitars, but about half a dozen others could easily be tapped as favorites.
The album's pace slows down exactly once during "Stone Fox", but even that track is fueled by a steady electric guitar churn, and ultimately, it's a much-needed cool-down to springboard into the choogle of killer closer "So Desperate". The album's final stretch offers some of its best moments. Thomas delivers a simple, triumphant melody, which seems to trigger an instant dopamine release. He caps the song's chorus with a set of "woooooooooo WOO WOO!" vocals and rounds the track out with a brief but point-perfect guitar solo. It's a very satisfying cap to an impressive album.
As a whole, Was Dead paints a portrait of the man behind King Tuff. "Freak When I'm Dead" is all about wanting to be buried in all his rings and favorite clothes. ("Everything with patches and everything with holes.") "Sun Medallion" paints a portrait of a man who drinks black coffee, drives a standard transmission green Chevrolet, smokes pot, and won't go anywhere without his sun medallion. There are songs about love ("Connection") and lust ("Animal"). The world of Was Dead is attainable, warm, familiar, fun, and catchy as hell-- "Alone and Stoned" from King Tuff is a worthy successor. These are the songs that people scream back at him, word-for-word, in concert while he shreds, wearing all his rings and his sun medallion. Without the adornments, the guitar solos, and these songs, he's Kyle. This is the album that made him King.
The year, 2007. The Boys, Jacuzzi. Hatched inside a vulture's nest, Jacuzzi Boys emerged from deep within the Florida wilds, three radioactive chicks cawing for their piece of electric rock pie.
With No Seasons (Florida's Dying) they freaked their way through the swamps, a psycho stomp of a record, all hallucinations and hand claps. Glazin’ (Hardly Art) found a more polished sound. They installed AC units inside their mobile homes, found a way to turn neon into ice cubes. Now, with their third full-length, the self-titled Jacuzzi Boys, they're going grand, building limestone monuments to those that boogied before them, while writing hypnotic ear worms by the light of a cigarette. Gone is the swamp-thing snarl. In it’s place, the indestructible cool of the casino slot-jockey with nothing to lose.
Recorded at Key Club Recording Co. in Benton Harbor, Michigan—same as 2010’s Glazin’—the new record takes full advantage of expert engineers Bill Skibbe and Jessica Ruffins' sonic sandlot, with Kramer in charge of mastering. The end result? A smashing set of tunes as dazzling as a sparkler.
It’s like that movie you once saw. The one with the boy and the girl and the plastic lounger on the beach. “Be My Prism” was the invitation. “Black Gloves” and “Double Vision” the promise. “Dust” was the rising tide. “Rubble,” the dirty uncle. “Hotline” was the lightning storm, and “Ultraglide” was the ending, the part where he drove her home with the windows down.
You remember you liked it.
It stayed with you while you swam alone in your pool that night.