Manic Moonlight

King's X

Metal Blade Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For over a decade, the guys in King's X have not been afraid to wear their beliefs on their sleeves. Nor have they been afraid to show their musical influences in their own work; lately, each of their albums sounds like the band - bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick, guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor and drummer/vocalist Jerry Gaskill - have been trying to create their own Sgt. Pepper without mimicing or copying the original.

Now, King's X seems to be wearing their hearts on their sleeves; their latest disc, Manic Moonlight, is the most personal effort they have done in their career. It is also one of the most difficult to listen to - not because it is bad, but because it sometimes feels like you're listening to the audio version of a diary, expressing some of the most private feelings one can have.

Things start off easy enough with "Believe," a song which dares to even flirt with the semi-religious undertones earlier King's X music had. If you listen to this song in passing, it would probably come off as an enjoyable pop number that you'd expect to hear on the radio. However, if you sit down and read the lyrics as the song is played, you'd understand that this particular tune has the power to influence lives, moreso than songs like Billy Joel's "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" ever could have imagined. To achieve something like this without becoming corny or neglecting the rock/soul/funk influences the band has is an amazing accomplishment.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The rest of Manic Moonlight - with the exception of the throwaway 18-second track "Water Ceremony" which closes the disc - all feels like it revolves around a theme of fear, heartbreak and loss. Oh, I can speculate about what I think some of the songs are referring to, knowing a little bit of the band's history... but, no, I'm not going to do that. Not this time, anyway. It's partially out of respect for the group, but mainly because each listener may choose to find their own meaning in these songs, and to label them as being written in a specific mindframe isn't fair to the band or the listeners.

Be that as it may, it still is a difficult, emotional listen. "Yeah" is a funk-filled number which has much deeper undertones that may have more meaning than what the words themselves say (sample lyric: "Please forgive me for my attitude / I'm choosing to stay on my side / LIfe with an addict you pick up a habit / Of letting them destroy your life"). It's interesting that King's X would create a song like "Yeah" with minimal lyrical usage, but in this case, it works well.

The emotional purge that is Manic Moonlight continues on songs like "False Alarm" ("If I could wave a magic wand / and make my dreams come true / I'd make my feelings go away / and make you want me too"), "Static" (another song whose minimalist style works with the lyrics), "The Other Side" and "Vegetable". Still, there is a side to these songs which makes them a tad difficult to take part in; it's like you've walked into someone spilling their hearts out on tape. It's often beautiful, occasionally painful, but all in all worth the effort.

It is at a time like this that maybe King's X is thankful they never became a supergroup - meaning simply that they don't have to live up to anyone's expectations with their albums. If, say, Britney Spears wanted to put out an album as personal as this (and assuming I'm correct with some of the suspicions I have regarding it), her record company would put the kibosh on that quicker than Vanilla Ice's career. But King's X have more of a license to express themselves like they have on Manic Moonlight, and it's a freedom I'm sure many artists would kill to have.

Manic Moonlight is not the kind of album that newcomers to King's X can walk into and expect to be comfortable with. Even the long-time fans might feel like they've walked into something they don't belong in. But King's X seems to know exactly what they're doing, and Manic Moonlight serves as some kind of inner demon purge they needed to make. As challenging of an album as this is, it's still an experience worth taking part in.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.