‘Concept prog-rock album’ is a phrase that brings with it a whole load of musical trepidation. The first thing that springs to mind is normally an image of this teenager in their room in the 70’s with the curtains drawn listening to albums that lasted around 9 years, and were so abstract you had to be high on LSD for them to make any sort of sense. I was hoping things had moved on a little bit in the 40 or so years since.
The Sunpilots hail from Sydney Australia and are made up of Raj Silva-Rajah (Vocals) Bob Spencer (Guitar) Tom McGirr (Drums/percussion) and Adil Baktir. (Bass) I think it would be fair to say that they are a little unorthodox, not only in musical style but they are pretty much permanently on tour and have chosen to give their album away for free. Not your average rock band.
King of the Sugarcoated Tongues is a huge, sprawling expanse of a record. You don’t so much listen to it as experience it. It’s a mish-mash of styles and influences. There’s Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, Muse, Justin Hawkins, 60’s and 70’s rock opera all in there, yet it still manages to maintain a real cohesiveness.
The album begins with ‘Prologue: 3 Minutes to Midnight.’ It gets the album off to a great start and somewhat surprisingly to me at least the first half of the song is really quite radio friendly and wouldn’t be out of place on Radio 1. Amongst some impressive guitar work the issue of control is raised and will remain one of the central themes throughout the album as a whole.
The 2nd and title track begins with a very different style vocal, which changes again for the 2nd half of the song with Sila-Rajah moving into Justin Hawkins territory. (Think ‘Love on the Rocks with No Ice’ by The Darkness) Each song is both lyrically and musically multi-layered, there is a lot going on and it may take a couple of listens to really take it all in.
‘Chapter II: The Captain’ is the longest track on the album and is arguably one of the deepest. It’s clear at this point that the album is one of those where you the listener can interpret it in many different ways. But there do seem to be some key central themes like machines and control and on this song in particular the human race’s search for a saviour. ‘Here’s a magical mystery man with a cure for prescriptions across the land; There’s a pill for whatever you have planned.’ I think this quote sums up those themes quite well. The band of course could tell me that all of this is total rubbish but this is my interpretation.
And if that wasn’t enough deep thinking for you the band take aim at religion and war on ‘Chapter III: God Science.’ ‘People were running, and pointing to the sky while men wearing velvet were relaying instructions from up high; and sending their soldiers into battle for ignorance and pride.’ I think that explains that one!
‘Chapter IV: Sex and TV’ is slower and more methodical than much of what went before it. The track still packs a kick however with the brilliant line ‘Blissful confusion prescribed by the state.’ In this day and age where people are now more aware of things like state control and to some degree political propaganda I think that line is particularly apt.
The brilliantly intricate intro of ‘Chapter V: Rain’ for me is definitely one of the high points of the album, it just fits perfectly. However the track as a whole just leaves me wanting more and is a little bit disappointing as I feel you are waiting for it to really kick into gear but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
The penultimate track ‘Chapter VI: The Piper’s Mirror’ sees the band return to a more up tempo style with more energy, this is The Sunpilots doing what they do best. This feel continues into the final instalment ‘Chapter VII: Exodus’ which provides a great end to the album. There is revolution, redemption and the correcting of mistakes, and all of these things serve to round everything off very well. Giving the story of the record its ending and chance to go out in a ball of flames.
King of The Sugarcoated Tongues may not be the most conventional album or easiest to really get into for a casual listener but it is without doubt a very good record. With each listen you will pick up something that you missed previously, and because of this it requires you to really listen to get full enjoyment from every track. This is something music has moved away from in recent years by trying to cater towards the lowest common denominator but this is a welcome return to a bygone era.
Multi layered and multi-faceted, this is certainly an album that deserves your attention.