As King Tuff, multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Kyle Thomas melts down garage rock hedonism, glam rock glitter, and undeniable pop catchiness into one unstoppable force. Early albums saw Thomas offering up more lo-fi readings of his tunes, sounding like unearthed singles from the heyday of '70s power pop filtered through a deeply damaged lens of garage rock psychosis. With Black Moon Spell, his third album and second for indie luminaries Sub Pop, King Tuff offers up the most varied look yet at his multicolored muse, amping up both the psychedelic and tuneful tendencies on every song. The album begins with the fuzz-drenched title track, a song featuring garage legend Ty Segall filling in on drums and Thomas channeling both Marc Bolan's snaky riffs and slithering, seductive vocals. The song positively struts along, setting the tone for the sound of the album's first half, falling somewhere between Blue Cheer, Cheap Trick, and T. Rex. Production from Bobby Harlow (a native Detroiter well known for stellar songcraft with his band the Go, among other things) brings all sounds into a state of saturation, pushing every guitar, backing vocal, random handclap, and other easily lost auxiliary sounds into an immersive gel of vivid tones and energies. Tuff's strength as a songwriter means even the shoddiest demo recordings of these songs would still yield wildly catchy results. The simmering psychedelia of "Rainbow's Run" blends seamlessly into "Headbanger," a goofy fuzzed-out power pop ode to a metalhead girlfriend. Shorter sketches like the Hunx & His Punx meet the Fugs acoustic punk of "I Love You Ugly" and the abrasive synth freak-out of "Radiation" tie the album together, cleansing the palate with noise to show the contrast in more produced numbers like the Who-indebted "Eyes of the Muse." While Black Moon Spell definitely tends toward heavier sounds than Thomas has ever mustered before, he keeps his pop sensibility in full focus in even the most riff-heavy moments of the album. Add to the mix boundary-pushing production and what might be his most developed set of tunes so far and the album immediately shuffles to the higher tiers of an already stellar body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas