TRACK REVIEW: Three Kings High – Nowhere Fast

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Three Kings High

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

 

Nowhere Fast

 

9.5/10

 

Nowhere Fast is available at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gar-CQ699NM

RELEASED: 

16th September, 2016

GENRES:
Rock; Funk; Alternative

ORIGIN:

Bristol, U.K.

Image result for three kings high they think they're people

The album, They Think They’re People, is available here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/they-think-theyre-people/id1133145824

_______________________

THE past few weeks have seen me look at bands and the…

value they hold in the modern scene. When reviewing solo artists – and the great ones coming through – I have looked at bands and how inferior some are. It seems like solo artists are grabbing more attention and much more diverse, consistent and original – the group hegemony starting to wane. That said, bands like my featured artists are making huge efforts to reverse that trend. Before I come to them, I want to look (again) at bands and the importance of originality; groups that take things back-to-basics whilst remaining populist – having a peak back at Bristol-based musicians and their merits. If I have been a bit dismissive of modern bands it is because of a certain type: those thin-hipped Indie boys that seem to be bash off vague Arctic Monkeys-esque songs without any originality and meaning. You also get a lot of Electronic-based groups that are incapable of enticing or appealing – just trying to fit into a mould straining heavy with like-minded beigeness.

Those bands that provide something fist-pumping, dirty and captivating are a rare stock – we should be proffering them and making sure they get the respect deserved. What is quite galling is the so-called ‘next best thing’ label the media attributes to any young group with a modicum of energy and noise. It is not good enough simply throwing some random, chart-seeking sounds together and thinking that is sufficient. The most enduring and long-lasting examples go deeper and create something a lot more startling and memorable. I know it is hard coming into music and making an impression; doing something instant and unexpected. The instinct of most bands is to portray a little bit of their heroes’ sound whilst putting themselves into the gaps. The trouble remains this: there is a real issue with originality and a lack of distinction. In terms of the mainstream artists; I cannot remember the last time I got excited about a band. Hooton Tennis Club and Warpaint are exciting and inventive, but to my mind, they are in the minority. There seems to be a general fear – among new bands coming into the big leagues – of being overlooked or not standing out. If you want to discover the freshest bands around, you need to delve into the underground – looking at those acts unsigned and free from commercial/label pressures. Undeterred by market trends and tight schedules: they are free and relaxed to create music at their own pace; the sound they want to produce.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Thompson

Three Kings High have a booking and press manager but have no record deal at the moment. The Bristol-based boys play Indie-Rock but do not cause me to shiver and balk – as do a lot of groups that play in that genre. I have grown weary of many Indie-Rock groups and how tired they seem. Three Kings High have plenty of Funk and sleaziness; thrown into the music – guaranteed to slosh alcohol around the place and kick over a few chairs. The guys have built a reputation around legendary live sets and music that pulls down the trousers and kicks you square in the cheeks. Thinking about them – and the acclaim they have gathered – is in no small part due to their dynamics and basic outlay. They are A Band: pure and simple without fancy baubles and needless sheen. Raw, stripped and completely engrossing: the personification of what a modern band should be about. There is no pretence or desire for mainstream appeal; they do not need to the nod of talent show judges or the beard-stroking nods of the stuffiest music critics – a group that has a rebellious streak and an enormous amount of honesty. A real and relatable band that make music for the feet and body. Too many bands seem to go for the soul: music that soothes and comforts but rarely gets the listener active and engaged. There is a risk turning things around and going straight for the gut – a lack of sophistication, depth and appealing. I still hear so many bands that turn the volume up and forget to write a tune. Such is the lack of musicality and quality it comes off jarring and jagged.

Three Kings High have been described as writing black Funk: the sort of music that recalls the Soul/Funk kings of old but has that modern skin. It is no surprise they  have caught the attention of the likes of Craig Charles – someone who knows a damn good funky tune when he hears it! Not only that: the band have been hailed by some of the biggest stations and reviewers around. I would think (Three Kings High’s) uncomplicated and blistering sound is the reason behind it. The guys have been working hard and touring a lot – honing their sound and growing strong with time. It is a disservice to call the band ‘Indie-Rock’ but it best explains their role I guess. There is ample Funk, Soul and Alternative threads within the music of Three Kings High to stands them above their contemporaries. So many bands of the minute are desperate to either fit into holes or be needlessly complicated. It is not easy taking all the clothing and layers away and presenting something basic but incredibly alluring. Three Kings High are masterful at getting into the head but registering nuance and memories long after the music has stopped. Both explosive and slowing-releasing music – that is a very difficult thing to achieve. Knowing similar bands like Saints Patience – a London-based Funk-Rock band – this sound is something a lot of other musicians would do well to follow. The results, the incredible music, really do speak for themselves.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Thompson

Before coming to the new music of Three Kings High: I wanted to talk about Bristol and how the city has shaped and redefined music. Back in the 1990s, it was impossible to ignore the relevance and influence of Bristol. Bands like Portishead and Massive Attack put the city firmly on the map and were the leaders of British Trip/Hip-Hop.  More obscure and lesser-celebrated bands such as Kosheen and The Pop Scene have helped put Bristol into the forefront. This year, there have been a few bands (from Bristol) shaking it up and making their mark. Foreign Affairs made some big steps in 2015 and are a Rock-Folk trio who mix American and British sounds together – already catching the ear of the press and radio stations. The Jacques are two sets of brothers who spar cockney guitar music with early-‘00s New York – quite a heady and irresistible call. If cello, beautiful female vocals and enriched, vibrant choruses are your bag, then Elder Island should be top of the musical shopping list. The trio is primed for bigger things and should be on everyone’s radar. It is not just bands that are making themselves known in Bristol. Fenne Lily is reminiscent of Daughter and Laura Marling: gentle-plucked strings with soothing, riparian tones; a passion and wistfulness combination that evokes something stunning. Ema Sierrra tells wonderful stories and packs a wonderful soulful, laid-back vocal style – hovering over droning guitars and dark velvet palettes.

If the sound and genres being proffered have changed (since the 1990s) then the quality and variation has not. We often celebrate London and Manchester as the cities to watch – continuing to produce world-class music and incredible acts. Over the past few decades, the cities have been unrivalled in terms of consistency and excellence. Bristol enjoyed exposure and attention during the reign of Massive Attack and Portishead but we assume that is all there is to the city. If you look closer, you will find so many wonderful musicians and a wealth of creative genius. It is hard to ignore Bristol’s strengths and variations: so many different artists all making an impression. I have ensconced myself in London and often focus too heavily on the musicians there – ignoring treasures like Bristol, for instance. It is a little remiss because, since the heydey and golden period for the city, there are so many wonderful musicians emerging. It is hard to say just how many of them will ascend to the mainstream but Three Kings High seem almost certain. They take wealth and knowledge from Bristol’s past and fuse it with the immediacy of the present.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

Look back at previous Three Kings High releases and you get a sense of where they have come from. Hail is an album flowing with funky grooves and uplifting harmonies. Crow and the Dove boats male-female vocals and races and jives it way through the gears. A rousing and blistering song that gets you up and moving – a typical track from that. It’s stop-start; fast-slow dynamic keeps things unexpected and unpredictable while Nothing Left to Lose is more straightforward but no less affecting. It is a song that has a funky/Rock core but spends more time fleshing out ball-busting solos and the band’s interplay. You get caught in the notes and flow with the song. Blending Rap and Hip-Hop into the song it is another addictive jam. What once notices, and differentiates their current material from older, is the sense of development and confidence. Hail is a record full of great moments and plenty of wonderful takeaways. They Think They’re People picks up from that without having to add too much to the palette. You get all the reliable groundwork and senses but, on their latest album, there is more depth and variation. The production sound is more solid and polished without losing its grittiness and natural freshness – it still sounds like you are listening to a live performance. They Think’ and its harder moments really resonates but so too do the funky cuts and soulful investigations. I have mentioned how unleashed and unchained the band is – a sentient unit that has a huge feel for subject matter and knows how to evoke reactions. Nowhere Fast is the perfect tributary of their multiple talents and ideas. You have all the fantastic vocals (of their early days) with some new-found inspiration and strength. The songwriting – on the song and album – seems at its peak and more original and startling than before. Maybe it is the touring and abilities they have picked up on the road; the press and push from the media have given them new impetus – all of this comes out resolutely and burning bright.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pete Stone

I wanted to focus on opener Nowhere Fast as not only is it the album introduction but the most immediate and nuanced song from They Think They’re People. The song rips from the gates and has that instant, catchy vibe. It is a track that spares no prisoners and contains that infectious glee and racing heartbeat. The composition is fairly simple but it is something few other bands have come up with this year. 2016 has been defined by some very serious music and a lot of artists trying to do something fun and frivolous – many fall short of the mark. Nowhere Fast has an ironic title given that accelerated start and ties together the ragged and loose sensation of a classic Rock band and something quirkier like The B-52’s. The hero comes to the microphone but he seems to be in rather gruff and unhappy mood.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

Life has been spiralling out of control and perhaps not reaping the rewards it should. You sense unfairness and injustice are ruling the creative mind. With many casting the net of blame over love and its tremulous daggers – Three Kings High’s lead is looking at the wider world and its lack of humility, humanity and jurisprudence. No matter what he does he cannot catch a break; there is that salt in the wound and a real degree of disenfranchisement and jadedness. No doubt there are some brutal truths to explain this cosmic bullying but you are too enveloped in the sheer sense of abandonment and ease in which the song unravels. I was caught by the percussive and strings melting; the way they wrap around one another and kick each other on. The entire band propels their fellow members and has that intuitive bond. The composition perfectly documents and illustrates the song and all it stands for – adding colour and imagination in addition to myriad emotions and possibilities. Our man is wiping nose on the back of his sleeve and getting “nothing done”. It is interesting to see whether – this lack of productivity – is the result of ill fortune or people hindering the lead. One feels dispensation and remuneration are in order: the fact the hero is being hindered if causing a lot of anxiety. Most bands – who would assess the same kind of thing – would bury the song in cloying sentimentality and morbid introversion. What you find with Three Kings High, as with their other releases, is an implacable verve and dynamic drive.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pete Stone

The song swaggers and dances its way around the room as you take in words of fatigue and dissatisfaction. When listening to the song, if the band would not take offence, you get a bit of The Specials, Sex Pistols and The Stranglers – maybe a little bit of Joy Division in the mix too. While other names do fly to the mind, you never think of anyone else. Nowhere Fast is that classic track of ambition against reality: fighting realness and natural expectations against inner-desires and widescreen hopes. Whether our lead just wants to progress in life and find his way; desires something rather spectacular and precious – nothing seems to be going his way. The song’s germination, because of that, need not have stemmed from one event or an extensive creative retreat – it is a sentiment and topic everyone can relate to. The hero is too “busy being busy” and seems wrapped up in a whirlwind or routine, work and rigmarole – never getting chance to cut loose and experience something pure. No matter how many pains and negatives are being thrown the way of the lead: nothing is changing and there is never an opportunity for relaxation and realisation. Nowhere Fast is an intriguing song whose language is direct and simple yet its truth is far from it. You wonder just how/what has compelled this discourse and (whether a figure) has sparked this musical fire. The language and lyrics are clear which means every line can be heard, appreciated and understood. Many bands bury their lines and lack that necessary decipherability. Three Kings High make their songs resonate with clarity and get straight into the head. Our man has his pockets rattling and being cemented in quicksand. How can he make his way and achieve his goals, one asks. “I’m getting nothing done” seems to be the central mantra of the song: the nub of the track. Many of us go through life not doing what we need to do and finding little time for ourselves. Maybe rising and new domesticity and demands have rendered personal time irrelevant; perhaps there are fewer moments to catch a breath. Whatever has unfolded is causing its fair share of heartache and pain.

PHOTO CREDIT: Pete Stone

Repeated, chorused words – uttering the song’s title – gives the song a real boldness and aggression – it is never off-putting or hard but captivating and strategy alluring. The vocals are layered and the chorus really starts to shine. That said, the band is hardly second-fiddle. The bass guides and steers the song: keeps all the strands and ideas connected and propels the other members along. The guitars swell, cut and stutter: not only creative a typical funkiness but eliciting emotions as wide-ranging as anger and humour. Percussion-wise, it is quite subtle but powerful enough to give the track a sturdy backbone and a real authority. The need to think fast (or “die slow”) is there: the hero is sinking beneath the sand and is collecting dust. Some may think it melodrama and exaggeration but you cannot say that without knowing the truth and seriousness and reality – that is kept to the band and never fully exploited. Nowhere Fast is open for everyone and is vague and oblique enough so everybody has their own views. I feel (the song) looks at personal ambitions coming against the unforgiving demands of the modern world. Perhaps ensconced in a nine-five existence and perpetual repetition – always experiencing the same day and never breaking from its straight jacket.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

Whatever lies beneath the skin is up to you – you are always caught by the infectiousness of the composition and the strong vocals. The band are completely in-step and provide one of their most astonishing and together performances. Having listened to most of their material – enough to gain a sense of evolution and chronological improvement – I can see just how bonded and together they are. Few bands have that spirit and gel – you get that in spades with Three Kings High. Like fellow Funk-Rock-Soul band Saints Patience – who created a similar song in Break of Dawn – there is that swaying and mobile vocal (full of dance and movement) with an insanely catchy and instant chorus. The band rides the song into the final stages with as much commitment and energy as they opened. Joe Eden and Samuel Otis provide the vocal allure (Otis on guitar) whilst some production and keys skills from Tom Lingham are firm and proud. Luke Wookash is the percussion master and provides that effusive and racing beat; Rowan Ensoll gives those liquid bass notes and unifying embers whereas Elo Colliou backs up the vocals with some sturdy and atmospheric rhythm guitar sounds. Nowhere Fast is, to my mind, the finest and truest song from Three Kings High. It is They Think They’re People’s highlight and a song that is sure to go down a storm in the live setting – impossible not to dance to and sing along with. Let’s hope the Bristol band is unsigned and undiscovered no longer. They have already caught the ear of some big names so it cannot be too long until they get the full credit deserved.

It is never wise proclaiming a band/artist as ‘ones to watch’. It can be a risky venture that seems exaggerated or a little pressuring. Bands feel they have to live up to that hype and it can be galling and intimidating. With regards Three Kings High, I will not laden them with any expectations or hyperbole. They have already gained applause from a range of magazines, sites and radio stations. I mentioned how Craig Charles has lauded them: ‘6 Music have featured their music and noted just how fresh and alive the band are. Other media sources have tried to describe their sound: like being in a bar and seeing a young, hungry band bring the funk. You might have your own interpretations but everyone will take something aware from the listening experience. I always search for groups that have that endurance and can keep on making music years down the track. So many current groups – in the mainstream at least – have that temporary feel and you wonder how long they will remain. Perhaps it is a matter of originality and sound or maybe it is a sign of the times – not to affront Three Kings High. There is a lot of talent in the upper reaches of music but our minds either turn to established, historic musicians or those making their first moves. It is quite hard arriving in the mainstream and trying to forge a successful career. In past reviews, I have lambasted bands that copy others and come into music with rather timid sounds. The way to get listeners hooked and remaining is something unique: that special touch that no other artist possesses. In terms of the band market of today: energy and nuance are more in-demand than anything else. Too many bands either go in heavy-handed (lacking sophistication) or too vague and weak. Three Kings High have something different about them. You hear their album They Think They’re People and get an octet of tracks brimming with live-sounding jams and a wealth of stories, emotions and standouts. It is hard for me to fully explain the album – which is why I rarely do album reviews – but Nowhere Fast is a perfect opening salvo.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

Right from that track; everything else makes sense: you have an idea of Three Kings High and fall under their spell. Take a look at some sample reviews:

“A band at the peak of their powers!

 – TOM ROBINSON, RADIO 6

Three Kings High build their songs from strong guitar riffs and memorable choruses, their indie attitude wilfully refuses to let them follow any of the signposts pointing to the obvious route

CLASSIC ROCK MAGAZINE

It is a creation which shimmers with excitement and temptation. If one were to close one’s eyes when one has this disc on, one is in a sweaty little basement club, surrounded by beer and fag fumes

IS THIS MUSIC

Three Kings High are just white boys doing dirty, black men funk rawk and they’re making it fun and they’re making it impossible to take the piss out of them

UNPEELED

It’s an addictive track, it’s just finished and I’ve got to have another blast of it. Like it a lot

BAUER MEDIA

It is clear the media and national radio are very much on board with the Bristol clan. That sort of brings me to the future and what the band can achieve. Short into their career and they have garnered big plaudit and some fantastic feedback. Not only have they cemented a solid fanbase but have ensured the hippest and most influential tastemakers of this country are on board. I feel the lads could well make a name for themselves in other nations. I keep mentioning the likes of the U.S.A. and Australia. These two nations as influential and important as the U.K. America is a nation that not only has L.A. and New York – two sides of the nation that provide ample and different opportunities – but have waves of towns, cities and states that could entertain the boys. They could embark on a mini-tour of locations in the U.S. Finance might be a hindrance but it is something to think about. There has always been a bond and special musical relationship between the U.K. and U.S. – plenty of opportunity for the band to get their music heard over there. I can imagine cities like New York and Seattle would best suit their sound but who knows how far they could go. Australia, too, is a country awash with fabulous musical areas. Melbourne and Sydney are obvious hotspots but Brisbane is perhaps the jewel in the crown – that part few think about but contains the finest musicians. It will be exciting discovering what the band do next year and where they choose to tour. They have a lot of demand in this country so could well find themselves tied up here. I can imagine the likes of Craig Charles are dancing and getting down to They Think They’re People and all it has to offer.

PHOTO CREDIT: Aaron Thompson

Too detailed, colourful and exciting to do justice to in the space of this review – Nowhere Fast is the (in my view) finest example of what the album is all about. The simplicity and fun; the energy and band connection; memorable and instantaneous nature of the song – that is all there and firm. Explore the L.P. and you are treated to an intoxicating and brilliant world: one where the senses are inflamed, seduced and awed. Make sure you get the album and let it do its work. Not only is the music instant and sharp but it has that necessary nuance to it. Whether a song is more direct and hard or takes time to work its magic – you will always come back to it and reinvestigate. I opened by looking at Bristol and how vital it is; the importance of originality in music and how the band market is taking a bit of a kicking. With the likes of Three Kings High ruling large: one will always find an act capable of revitalising flagging corners of the band industry. The sort of predictable Indie acts have had their day and are being superseded by a superior, more intriguing replacement. Three Kings High have touches of Funk and Punk; they have some Rock edges and Indie middles. Never unfocused or far-reaching – a band that can tread into various genres and make everything sound completely natural and sensational. It is left for me to highlight the importance of cities like Bristol – an area that has lost a bit of attention since its regency in the ‘90s. With such an original, fresh and exciting band like Three Kings High coming through: can we overlook such a place any longer? As I have shown (at the top of this review), Bristol has a lot of great solo artists and bands staking their claim. You can toss Three Kings High into the hat. They Think They’re People is a perfect example of a group vibing from backing and media appreciation. That confidence and faith go into incredible material that is gathering universal acclaim. If you want to discover a band that not only separates themselves from the crowds but has the impetus and potential to last for years – you should head the way of Three Kings High. Where they go from here is anyone’s guess, but if you ask me, they…

PHOTO CREDIT: Pete Stone

WILL not be slowing down soon.

_________________________

Follow Three Kings High

 

PHOTO CREDIT: Sean Strong

Official:

http://threekingshigh.com

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ThreeKingsHigh/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/threekingshigh

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/threekingshigh/

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/threekingshigh

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThreeKingsHigh

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