They say the freaks shall inherit the earth, and it will be King Charles who was ordained by god to rule over them. A king like any other, with his pleasures and his vices, each song from his latest album ‘Out Of My Mind’ is popped into his mouth frivolously, like a box of bon-bons. Everything, from the familiar fizz of glam-rock and the sour tang of electronica, to the rosy perfume of breathless ballads, is a treat King Charles gorges upon.
The album’s sonic palette is a canvas spattered with Pollock-like urgency; this sense of do or die comes as little wonder, as ‘Out Of My Mind’ marks King Charles’ full recovery after a serious skiing accident in 2010. His cavalier spirit, however, never dulled, smuggling in a mini-synth to his hospital bed to begin work on the album in earnest, until his discharge in 2018. His newfound lust for life is an attitude that has imbued his long-awaited return with a madness that is as beguiling and disturbing as madness itself.
The titular track, ‘Out Of My Mind’ toys with his many contradictions, not so much wrestling with himself, but relishing the chaos of his own complexities: “You know, sometimes I think I’m selfish / You know, sometimes I think I’m holy” he sneers. A ceremonial drum rolls and guitar riffs that pace with feline finesse coil tension tightly. It’s like a carousel, gaining a sickening momentum with haunting falsetto harmonies and whirring synths, crashing in a flurry of distortion and noise. It’s as a good a statement as any other.
With the sultry, neo-soul grooves of ‘Freak’, coupled with ‘She’s A Freak’, a synth-led, seedy foray into what would make the ideal soundtrack to an old blue movie, it would be easy to buy into King Charles’ lothario-like persona. However, his carnival of depravity gets brought into question by none other than himself on ‘Deeper Love’. This funk-fuelled track sees a player getting played, with his love interest refusing to put up with his games. King Charles’ voice is an instrument as finely-tuned and delicate as any other, blending seamlessly with a Prince-like arrangement.
Sometimes his indulgences lead him to over-face himself, giving not only himself but his listener an eye-watering hangover. King Charles’ departure into electronica on ‘Drive All Night’ and ‘New York Sunrise’ which, though urgent and nocturnal, too closely resemble the 00s pop music we all tried so hard to forget. His spoken verses on ‘New York Sunrise’ have a creepy echoing of BodyRockers’ ‘I Like The Way’, while ‘Drive All Night’ harks back to a robotic, plasticky Britney.
If you look up the definition of the word ‘vulgar’, you will find ‘Money Is God’. This ode to capitalism on the surface barely conceals an ironic (you would hope, anyway) subtext – while this is clever, it’s an almost unlistenable smorgasbord of sounds. Between orgasm-like moans, saccharine female vocals lead on the chorus, with King Charles’ verses taking on the form of itemised, spoken-word rap. The intention is right, but the execution is as flimsy as the monopoly dollar.
Amidst all this avarice and extravagance, ‘Out Of My Mind’ is punctuated with moments of bleary-eyed sincerity - the harsh light of the morning after. His more meditative tracks are far more becoming; it’s a territory with which King Charles is more familiar. On tracks ‘Melancholy Julia’ and ‘Watchman’, he chases the mirage of his own youth. “When we were young, living life lightly/ I was a fool for you”, he sighs on ‘Melancholy Julia’, dreaming of a time he’d meet again with his first love. It’s a cinematic reading of a diary entry; we are permitted to hear his innermost thoughts. On ‘Watchman’, however, the tone he chooses is Byronic hope. “We would never say ‘forever’, because we’re gonna stay young,” he hopes naively. His voice falters, however, over reflective piano keys, in the worry that everything he believes isn’t true.
King Charles closes ‘Out Of My Mind’ with surprising clarity. The calypso-inspired ‘Feel These Heavy Times’ sways with summery abandon. Looks can be deceiving, though, because here, he takes an unflinching look at the state of the world. “I know you know life’s not fair / Maybe that’s why revolution’s in the air”. For all his misfires, it takes a zest for life like King Charles’ to seize the day and be the soundtrack to lead us through it.
Words: Sophie Walker
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