Little Red Kings 2020
Coming on strong, Norfolk quintet still have to define a royal force.
Since the release of their self-titled statement of intent in 2012, this English ensemble seemed to have been seeking identity which could encompass various strands of what the collective can do, and their third full-length offering finds such a search in full swing. There are clear markings of classic rock, and the five’s swagger should match any American Southerner’s ego, while the band’s sensibility bears a British elegiac restraint, and that’s the gist and the pull of it all.
Running from the airy romanticism of “Harry’s Town” where AOR is swiftly blown out of the water by catchy riffs and infectious chorus, to the multifaceted finale of “Magic Show” that suggests a vague concept to the album, most songs on display naturally gravitate towards a glam sort of stomp. Sure, it’s chilling to the bone when Jason Wick’s vocals are left alone with a six-string crunch in “Mama’s Boy” to mix the Wensum’s water and the Mississippi’s mud, but once “Almost Over” has betrayed the team’s affection for the ’60s rhythm-and-blues and let the listener rave up to the organ roar and motorik groove until AC/DC guitar filigree would signal the coda, the group’s genuine hearts start to bloom on their sleeve.
Whether it’s the sly delight of “That’s What You Do” that rocks with much panache or the almost a cappella onset of “Peppermint” which takes country sway for a suburban ride, there’s something irresistible about these numbers. Yes, the violin-smeared “Weather The Storm” may feel a tad lachrymose before turning anthemic, with luxuriant balladry hanging heavy, albeit alluring, at the album’s tail end, yet Craig Stevenson’s ivories elevate “Lose The Light” and chase away the sadness. Still, “Norfolk Border” is justifiably dewy-eyed – shimmering behind the half-whispered vocals and falling abruptly into silence to usher in the enchanting title track whose psychedelic layers are delicately peeled off, revealing the record’s cosmic core.
One more go at defining it, and LRK will reign supreme.