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King Tuff - Smalltown Stardust (Album Review)

Tuesday, 31 January 2023 Written by Tom Morgan

Photo: Wyndham Garnett

King Tuff’s one of those musicians who’s been around so long, and has ploughed such a similar furrow to uber-prolific garage-rock acts such as Osees and Ty Segall, that it’s easy to forget he’s only released six studio albums.

‘Smalltown Stardust’ is King Tuff’s (real name: Kyle Thomas) first album since 2018’s ‘The Other’ and it continues that album’s shift into mellow psych and glam-rock. Gone are the scuzzy garage-rock riffs, replaced by acoustic guitars, layers of vocals and a relentlessly sunny disposition.

This giddy affability is an admirable quality of ‘Smalltown Stardust’. The driving Rock River and its closing refrain of “my love for you will never fade away” is extremely sweet and makes for undeniably pleasant listening, while Tell Me’s folk-rock bounce and repeated insistence that “I can’t keep my love from you” neatly repeat the trick.

But this gentle likeability also means that ‘Smalltown Stardust’ is both very familiar and sometimes a tad pedestrian. The sonics often feel like straight-up pastiches, with Portrait Of God unashamedly cribbing from T. Rex, Pebbles In A Stream from Neil Young and Tell Me from Fleetwood Mac.

The garage-rock subgenre (and much of modern indie-rock, if we’re being honest) is a place that unashamedly favours revivalism over innovation, but that truth can’t be used as an excuse over and over. ‘Smalltown Stardust’ fails to land a memorable punch, even if the ones that do make contact are particularly friendly and amiable.


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