THOMAS KING – Last Night Living EP

Austrian born singer-songwriter Thomas King relocated to Los Angeles in search of his musical dream.  His first release, the 2010 EP ‘High On Life’ attracted some good press from various independent music websites.  King maintains the momentum with 2011’s ‘Last Night Living EP’ by picking up where he left off, resulting in four studio-honed pop tunes.  On paper, well crafted pop with a knowhow of the recording studio seems like a winning formula, but in reality, the studio trickery quashes most of what could be great about King’s material.

Nearly everything on this EP sounds like it’s under a metallic, fake sheen.  In the case of the throwaway but catchy ‘Round Again’, this is an approach which just about works, since the main chorus line adopts a simple, chantable ‘whoah’ in a way which screams Europop.  Similarly, ‘Stay With Me’ bounces merrily under a barrage of keyboards which nod to The Killers and so many other eighties revivalists.  On both these numbers, there are plenty of elements just tailor made for radio play and King’s knack for a chorus manages to shine from beneath the studio filters.

In terms of studio tweaking, he pushes his luck just too far with the title cut, as his voice is subjected to extreme levels of auto-tune.  No doubt this is for stylistic effect, but it doesn’t make it in any way enjoyable.  Even the most disposable of pop should be able to stand proudly without sounding like Cher’s ‘Believe’;  countless bands managed it throughout the 80s, after all – even the campest of Euro-poppers.  Attempting to get past the robotic vocal ugliness, there’s a one-two robotic beat which goes nowhere until the chorus where, unbelievably things get worse.  Swamped with the levels of auto-tune best reserved for r ‘n’ b trash, King delivers a chorus which is stupidly repetitive to the point of annoyance.

The best of these four cuts – without question – is ‘It Starts Tonight’ which fuses choppy new-wave guitars, a wash of keyboards and a catchy hook.  Sounding more like something from California delivered in 1987 (with another hint of the early twenty-first century thrown in for good measure) as opposed to Euro-pop, this shows Thomas King at his best.  Although still radio-friendly in the extreme, he needs to embrace this slightly tougher edge more often; those extra layers of guitar – and (very slightly) less vocal filtering really helps to give his song writing a lift.  The end result could stand proudly among similar post-millennial pop-rock workouts.

There are some good moments here – at least from a song-writing perspective – there’s absolutely no denying that ‘It Starts Tonight’ has a fantastic hook with the ability to stick, potentially in the long-term.  However, an over-reliance of that autotune knob – even if just for dramatic effect –is not only horribly distracting, but for your average adult pop-rock fan, it’s hugely unwelcome.  Yes, this is an artist who can write a chorus, but for best results, those choruses need to be delivered with some real human emotion – for King and his studio honed sound, there’s barely anything approaching such old fashioned luxury.

December 2011