On their sophomore full-length Beyond Control, Seattle band Kings Kaleidoscope evidences much growth but still shows they need much refinement.
In an interview with Spirit You All (one of my favorite music blogs, by the way; definitely check them out), frontman Chad Gardner said that the band sought to make songs that were “intricate and elaborate, but quiet” and to forsake the dramatic swells and builds that defined their debut Becoming Who We Are.
When compared to the album which preceded it, Beyond Control does seem much more focused and stripped down. The record feels far more personal and intimate than their previous work, standout examples being “A Prayer” and the interlude “Friendship.” However, the structure of the album struggles as a result of this new approach. Kings Kaleidoscope still maintains a nearly frantic sort of aesthetic that crams in whatever sound and texture the band fancies for the moment, which results in a record that still feels a bit busy. Moreover, four of the songs are interludes, three of which could have been expanded, ejected, or combined with other songs entirely.
Ironically, the remaining one of these interludes — the aforementioned “Friendship” — perhaps shows Kings Kaleidoscope at its best. The laid-back approach to the song actually justifies the band’s style better than any other attempt on the album. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, so the busyness seems a bit more endearing instead of exhausting.
But before I go on talking about the album’s truly enjoyable moments, there’s an Internet outcry to address: What’s the deal with “A Prayer”? It’s “explicit”! There are f-bombs! False Christianity! Let no unwholesome talk come from your mouth!! Matthew 12:36-37!!
First, let me say that making a judgment of whether or not someone’s faith or salvation is “true” is ridiculous, and controversial happenings in Christian subculture brings forth the uncomfortable reality that many people believe otherwise. Second, the two Scriptures referenced against the use of harsh words in art (the one I mentioned from Matthew and Ephesians 4:29) are often used out of context or even totally misunderstood. For more about that, check out this piece from the Nehemiah Foundation. Lastly in defense of the choice of language in the song, I believe that its usage is a matter of honesty. There needn’t be a constant veneer of perfection on Christian musicians, though there also needn’t be vulgarity only for the sake of vulgarity.
In short, I really don’t have a problem with “A Prayer.” Except that it’s really not that great.
One major problem in the arts currently is that many Christian artists refuse to explore the themes of doubt, fear, death, and anything that may fall under the blanket term of “darkness.” This is unfortunate, since many times in life our problems take time to work out, if at all on this side of the grave. My biggest complaint is that all of the songs on Beyond Control do have resolution within their endings. While I don’t have a problem with recognizing that there will be resolution in light of eternity, I wish that “A Prayer” and some of the other rawer tracks had been stripped of their happy endings. Kings Kaleidoscope may be more willing to explore darker places, but they aren’t willing to stay there for very long.
Moreover, specifically in the instance of “A Prayer,” the coarseness actually doesn’t land with much lasting impact, and the “clean” version of the track uses even more awkward wording. It also seems a bit forced and maybe even pandering to release a “clean” version at all.
Before this post becomes too much more of a dig or a response to “that one song,” I should note that I do enjoy the album. I only levy these harsher criticisms against the album because I support Kings Kaleidoscope and the direction in which they are headed. There is a likable nature to the unfettered exuberance of the production, and it will eventually even out to something more mature and focused.
Also, there is a marked improvement from Becoming Who We Are to Beyond Control. Given the growth between these two albums, I can only imagine what album three will sound like. I think it will sound something like the first half of the album, which best channels the band’s writing style.
So, despite its flaws, Beyond Control is worth a listen, if only to see the dramatic steps forward taken by a band that genuinely seems like they are trying their best to creative innovative and honest art.
Check out KK on the web.
Excellent review, this is pretty much spot on. If their third album sounds entirely like the first half of this I would be entirely on board. As far as this one goes, it’s just pretty good 🙂