King Blank - The Real Dirt - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

King Blank - The Real Dirt

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2018-06-08
King Blank - The Real Dirt
King Blank - The Real Dirt

If I had to use just one word to describe the music of the late great Ian Lowery, it would be: intense. Next, I would reach for “raw”, “emotional” and “hard hitting”. He also had a biting sense of irony and any piss taking was done with a poker face. From his early days with The Wall and Ski Patrol to the more lauded likes of Folk Devils, Lowery cut a blazing path before his untimely death in 2001. He was an incredible talent and should be far more well-known than he is. His earnest champions included John Peel among others. You can add me to the list. If you ask me, Ian Lowery is a lost legend.

After Folk Devils crashed and burned, Lowery recorded under the King Blank moniker and was just as relentlessly ahead of the curve. Hitting on “Alt Country” and “Indie” well before such phrases were coined. While his 2nd release, King Blank To has been available for download for some time, his primal, first King Blank album has been M.I.A. Until now. Welcome to, The Real Dirt. And man, does it ever live up to title.

“The title was supposed to make clear that Heavy Metal is a comedy, while the record is real,” Lowery told a French interviewer. “It refers to those Heavy Metal bands that talk about war, death and dying---treating these topics as if it were a comic book.”

This is no comic book.

Manically strummed acoustic guitars kick things off and then a Rockabilly groove, setting the scene for ‘Howl Upside Down’. A song Lowery himself best sums up thus: “Direct plagiarism of a Jim Thompson novel, Savage Night. Its about a hitman sickened by the work he’s doing. He runs off with this deformed woman.” What he doesn’t realize is that she’s the one who's been hired to carry out the contract on him. “Looks can’t kill but this gun can,” Lowery scowls. “My ghosts are giggling in the pines”, is a lyric sure to appease fans of Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Gun Club. What a way to start an album.

‘Blind Box’ is the kind of tough as nails rocker that characterizes this long player. Lowery’s fiery vocals possessing a switch blade wit. If one is looking for Johnny Thunders grit and edge, look no further than ‘My Pink Bang’ and the furious ‘Guilty As Hell’. On the title track, Lowery romantically gives you a guided tour of the gutter with, “Welcome to my perfect hell, my desperate paradise”.

The ominous ‘Killer In The Rain’ is the album’s most hair raising track. “It’s about the Green River Killer,” Lowery explained at the time. “The song is not sexist,” he insisted. “It’s a horrible, horrible song. It couldn’t possibly be misconstrued except by the biggest dimbo.” What’s so spine chilling is Lowery’s uncharacteristically restrained delivery. They are calm, detached and terrifying. “If it were done by an American band, it would have growling, macho, breast beating vocals,” Lowery observed.

By contrast, ‘Uptight’ has all the makings of a hit. An uncompromising hit. Right between the eyes. Lowery confessed the song was, “About the total wastefulness of a hedonistic lifestyle”. The song’s protagonist and denizens living as if there were no tomorrow, missing out on life in the process. Always the contrarian, Lowery wears his sarcasm on his sleeve, offering up a tune that on the surface is as vapid and catchy as it gets. Then gets in a sucker punch before leaving the party.

‘Bulletproof Crucifix’ finds Lowery opening embracing Country & Western with a lyric sheet straight out of some demented Spaghetti Western. It’s twisted chorus touching on drunken Gospel. Thus, drawing the original album to a playful end.

However, The Real Dirt ‘doesn’t stop there. What follows are a trove of A & B sides. ‘Thought I Was Well’ is anything but and the jazzy, Stray Cat strut of ‘Fill Me Up’ has Joe setting ‘em up for a hit man on the rocks. “Fill me up brother, I’m empty again. I just liquidated my last friend,” Lowery laments with a tongue and cheek snarl. If that weren’t fistful of earth enough, there’s a re-mastered ‘Uptight’ and the unholy vengeance of, ‘Slackjaw Man’. ‘Mouth Off’ is essential Lowery featuring all the intensity of his Folk Devils days. ‘Drunk On Tears’ is the closest The Real Dirt gets to a ballad, “turning the wedding into a wake”. A track that can’t help but bring The Birthday Party to mind at their most moribund.

More than anything, The Real Dirt is a vital reminder at what a fierce talent Ian Lowery was. Truly, a lost legend. He had everything fans of the Heartbreakers, Stranglers or Richard Hell & The Voidoids could hope for. He was also stylistically diverse, touching on Country and Cabaret when not blasting out some of the most incendiary Rock & Roll of his era. It’s hard to believe this stuff was cut in 1987. It doesn’t sound the least bit dated. What’s more this is a brilliant re-mastering job. Every song hitting you smack dab in the face. In conclusion, there’s not much to say other than get your hands dirty with this one.

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