- by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:1989-08-28 Label: Situation Two
In terms of the UK Post Punk scene of the 80’s, Ian Lowery is a lost legend deserving wider recognition. From his work in the incendiary Folk Devils to his fierce solo albums under the King Blank moniker, he not only displayed an encyclopedic musical diversity but a sharp, razor-edged lyrical wit few of his peers could rival.
Much like its formidable predecessor, The Real Dirt, the cagily entitled King Blank To pretty much came and went under the radar in 1989. But if you’re looking for killer hooks and cutting one-liners King Blank To’s opening salvo is all you--- ‘Need’. Here Lowery strips humanity down to an insatiable maw of constant craving. Taking but never giving. “I don’t need this,” he quips before the guitars go to work like a pair of Clockwork Orange droogies. ‘I Said Skin’ keeps the pedal to the floor while the snarling riff of ‘Kind of Loathing’ hits you like a shiv in the back. Lowery may be spitting out the put-downs but it’s clear he’s down on both knees, sick with heartbreak.
After the onslaught of the first three tracks, the melodic acoustic guitar of ‘Sick Little Minds’ is likely to stop you in your tracks. But don’t expect a love ballad reprieve from the cruel injustices of the world. In fact, the lyrics are likely to send a chill. Lowery paints a picture of a young woman veering between suicidal and homicidal impulses. Just what she’ll do with daddy’s gun is open to question. “What a way to pass the time, God bless our sick little minds,” Lowery offers. Despite taking on the role of narrator, behind the sarcasm, there’s a telling lump of compassion in the throat.
The brooding ‘Wild Times’ follows, with Lowery giving it his best world-weary private eye, pining for his long-lost femme fatal. All doomy guitars and bête noir. None of which prepares you for the Punk Bluegrass banjo of ‘Jack Dust’. A driving murder ballad on one hell of a spree. Musically, this is some ferocious Alt-Country some ten years before the phrase was coined. A gripping number with no sleep until Hades. Not only an album standout but a Lowery classic.
‘Your Gonna Pay’ is the kind of tough as nails Blues thrash Lowery excelled at with Folk Devils. None of which prepares you for the grim introspection of ‘Beach Fire’. A stark contrast to the rest of the album. Lowery’s lyricism verging on pure poetry. One of the most haunting songs the man ever cut.
‘Never Again’ is an almost celebratory exercise in self-evisceration while the uproarious ‘Driver’s Arrived’ is a twisted mix of obsession and tongue in cheek bravado. Despite the title, ‘The Party’ is anything but. It manages to be even more morose than ‘Beach Fire’. “Whatever happened to morning, it's three days overdue,” Lowery confesses. “My lips can’t form the words, to speak. Oh, it was important too”. Whatever it was, the piper must be paid. Then, ‘One Last Blast’ steps in to take a parting shot with no tomorrow. What begins in spoken word mode ends in a deranged assault worthy of The Birthday Party. An intense, uncompromising end to an album that seems to be hell-bent on above all things, being honest. With oneself and others. Something that is never pretty and rarely flattering. But it’s the process by which we grow and become better people, allowing us to be something more than the squealing ball of ‘Need’ Lowery rails at.
Of course, no reissue is complete these days without a few bonus tracks. ‘13th Floor’ takes the edge off with tongue and cheek aplomb while ‘Sailor On A Horse’ is an atmospheric bit of weirdness that once again touches on Birthday Party territory. ‘Thin Air’ and ‘Shake and Moan’ give a listener a glimpse at how fiery Lowery could be live. As for ‘Lowery Speaks’, well it’s pretty self-explanatory. After an introductory snippet of ‘Need,’ Lowery spills the beans on some of his key influences and sums it all up with “everyone’s nostalgic for their own golden age.” Well, along with Folk Devils and Real Dirt, King Blank To captures Lowery in his golden age. If you’re looking for Johnny Thunders grit cut with caustic Elvis Costello wit, you’ll find the perfect storm in Ian Lowery.