Sunday, 19 April 2009

Album Review: King Creosote Flick The Vs (Domino)


Prolific Fence Collective progeny King Creosote returns to Domino for the release of Flick The Vs, his own little fuck you to those who’ve wasted his time over the last few years. The man behind the moniker, Kenny Anderson, has had plenty to kick back against, from the demise of his long term relationship with fellow songwriter Jenny Gordon, to his failed stint with Warner imprint 679 records, who dropped him in 2007 following their takeover by Atlantic. Ever one to translate his troubles into albums, Anderson’s latest offering mines these emotional and professional troughs for darker material, whilst managing some remarkable ebullience that arrests with the familiar optimism of this first man of Fence.

Lead single ‘Coast On By’, a collaboration with The Beta Band’s Steve Mason, sees Anderson bemoaning the transience of the life of a musician in a clattering, heavy-handed number of pop-sensible simplicity – but this is hardly representative of an album that oscillates between the lure of electro-hooks and organic acoustic/orchestral elements. Opener ‘No One Had It Better’ showcases Anderson’s ability to switch from dislocated, experimental electronica to the most sublime, looping guitar hooks, and meld the two into an oddly plaintive, propulsive break-up ballad. Meanwhile ‘No Way She Exists’ appears to open with the sound of a creaking door, before exploding into the jangle and honk of a baritone saxophone and a thousand pots and pans.

It is in the quieter moments of Flick The Vs that Anderson’s constantly evolving approach to song writing and arranging is best demonstrated. Though almost always favouring the melodic security of three-chords in verse-chorus form, he nonetheless transforms such simplicity with undistinguishable sound effects and samples. In ‘Fell An Ox’, Flick The Vs’s finest moment, it is only Anderson’s vocal that anchors the opening of an otherwise drifting three minutes of forlorn ephemera, both musical and lyrical.

While by no means definitive of King Creosote, Flick The Vs is nonetheless representative of the constant metamorphosis of one of Scotland’s greatest musical exports. It manages to be at once experimental and diverse without sounding completely disparate and confused, and encompasses both extremes of Anderson’s preoccupations with commercial pop and left-field contemporary folk. A promising addition to the Creosote repertoire.

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