King Dude: Burning Daylight – a little dark / a little light.
I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with the “bad boy” image in Rock. It all seems so white bread, like the worst these “rebels” can conjure up is taking drugs, trashing a hotel room and cheating on their spouses. And this extends to other genres as well. Ambiguity is meant to be carried through; the “words” are never meant to be practised. After all, “bad” is the shadow of “good” and our fascination with both speak more to our interest in the opposite than in what manifestation we are trying to project. Even the great Jonny Cash only sung a song about killing a man in Reno. And only those who have never done it will see power in his lyric – I don’t care how many prisoners I see clapping him from the pews.
Fortunately, those who have “never done it”, represents most of us, and that says a lot about imagery in music and representation. If the rebelliousness in music seems a little pedestrian, then that is because its audience is pedestrian and the performer and the listener are feeding off each other. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn’t take itself too seriously. As soon as it all gets serious, it gets watered down via the Marilyn Manson defence – I am the poster boy for fear. I’m not actually to be feared.
After all of this, a little irony is required in order to a) help us not take it all so seriously and b) give us the freedom to immerse fully into an aesthetic we may never know the true meaning of. Enter King Dude and his third album, Burning Daylight, a kind of Americanised parody / ode to Death In June. The Jonny Cash aesthetic doesn’t sit too well with me (am I the ONLY person in the world who thinks he’s a bit wussy???) but King Dudes take on it, and his satanic rumblings give it a goth style version of black that I find matches my darkness a little better. For me, and I know everyone doesn’t feel this way (and I’ve had MANY late night beer infused conversations urging me to change my opinions) metal does dark better than country does dark. Burning Daylight worked a lot better for me when I saw it against the backdrop of Death in June rather than Jonny Cash. It’s almost like he’s ironising Death in June while giving Jonny cash a set of balls.
(Please don’t send me to music jail for that comment)
T.J. Cogwill is his name, a Seattle-based satanic entrepreneur of sorts, being the lead of the death metal band Book of the Black Earth, and proprietor of witch-house apparel label Actual Pain. King Dude is his dark country alter ego, and Burning Daylight the third album under this moniker. The Death in June connection is one I picked up reading around. It’s unacknowledged on the album, but there is no mistaking the connection. Death in June are a reasonably obscure band who sourced lyrically and philosophically from Nazism and neo-paganism, occultism, Nordic and Old European mythology, and an often circumspect and ambiguous relationship to the völkisch ideologies that spawned Nazism. Given a backdrop like this, an explanation for the darkness unexpressed lyrically in Burning Daylight can be found. There is a depth here that goes beyond the American country / folk that Cogwill is adopting / parodying.
The album is divided into two sections, a descent into an ironic hell, a moment of salvation and then an approach to redemption. This moment of salvation is represented by a lovely little track titled “My mother was the moon”, a song quite out of step with the rest of the album (primarily because Cogwill doesn’t carry the tune himself) but most welcome. For my money the best of the album is after this track. I adore tracks 7 through to 11, though for me the album climaxes at Lorraine, You can break my heart, and Lord, I’m coming home. In a way the album is an emotional set up. The darkness still imbues the aesthetic but King Dude wisely leaves it in the ambiguity. The album becomes an ode to love with all its twisted vastness, and none of the banality of the baggage-laden words used to express that. (In my sentences not his lyric) This is a journey and it needs to be listened to start to finish. I dare you to put it down once you’ve started.