There are any number of reasons why King’s X were never as huge as the bands they influenced (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden) went on to become: Christian themes, a mohawked black guy for a lead singer, a sound too heavy for pop and too poppy for metal (Vocal harmonies and stratocaster crunch? Who wants that in their metal?). So their appeal was left primarily to the only groups of people who really care deeply about pure music: nerds and musicians. Unlike hair metal, King’s X weren’t selling a lifestyle to the bored; unlike thrash or death metal, they weren’t selling a sense of strength to the powerless; unlike punk or alternative rock, they weren’t reactionaries against a mainstream. They were just another band from Texas, that vast crossroads where musical outlaws run roughshod across the borderlines of genres. Perhaps the primary thing, though, that made them so unmarketable was the simple fact that there has never been anything cool about sincerity.
Their painful sincerity is in full flower on “Goldilox,” the second cut on their debut album. It’s immediately recognizable to every nerdy boy who can’t talk to girls as their Theme Song. “I can’t believe summer’s
almost here / I made it through another year even if alone” is, in some shape or form, written in the diary of every socially awkward teenager. Couched in different timbres, it would be twee indie rock. But sung by a soul singer (did I mention the mohawk?) fronting a heavy rock trio on an album named after a C.S. Lewis book, it has some barriers to entry for normal folks. But that’s who they were: three misfit Christian kids (who met each other in Springfield, Missouri!) who liked the Beatles and hard rock.
The King’s X Marketing Predicament continues to the present day. They are forever the best kind of cult band, though: still making records, still accessible to their fans (Doug signed my bass!), still writing honest songs. It should also be noted that “Goldilox” is the closest thing to a conventional love song the band has ever written. After 15 albums, they’ve managed never to write anything resembling a ballad. They got it out of the way early on side 1 of their first album.
Buy Goldilox (LP Version) at amazon.com
1.) Strip away all theatrics and fashion from popular music and you generally won’t find most teenagers. You’ll just find nerds, musicians and adults.