Monday, January 16, 2012

King's X: "King"

Why isn't King's X more popular? Why aren't they as big as Alice in Chains or Soundgarden? I understand why most great metal bands don't sell millions of records, and I'm fine with that, but King's X write undeniably tight, tuneful and catchy songs that could be on any "Best of the '90s" comp. I'm baffled that they're not.

Their first album, Out of the Silent Planet, took its name from C.S. Lewis and has the best ever hard rock tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King. "King" was released as a single and had a very earnest, very stupid video that opened with a Dr. King quote quote and depicted the band as children dealing with school racism by picking up instruments. Best to discover the song through its urgent riff and the band's signature vocal harmonies. There's even a sitar mixed in there.

Doug Pinnick, the band's gangly bassist/singer, turned 13 the week of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech and was undoubtedly affected. Sadly, oppression did not end for him with the Civil Rights Movement. Raised in strict Baptist family, Pinnick brought his spirituality to many of King's X's lyrics until 1998, when he confirmed his homosexuality to a Christian publication. King's X were promptly dropped from distributors, removed from Christian retail stores and widely shunned by the community that Pinnick had embraced for nearly 50 years.

Since then, King's X have soldiered on with almost no media support or commercial success. The fact that they're still touring, playing "King" in the face of bigotry gives me a smile on MLK Day.

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