Music Reviews

The Legendary Pink Dots

All The King’s Men


All The King’s Men is totally fucking enchanting, like this beautiful incandescent glitter. It’s reminiscent of autumn evenings with soft orange lights and wordless young longings for someone or someone else just out of your reach. There’s a tinge of loss in every note struck, as if it’s an elegy for a world about to change totally and utterly – a sober reminder for the new world not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Like looking into beautiful, clear, green eyes and seeing the universe reflected back.

“Cross of Fire” is downbeat electronic blips and clockwork percussion over which Edward Ka-Spel obliquely deadpans his disgust with white America until the more caustic chorus; the song is finally enveloped in self-immolating feedback. “The Warden” has the hushed tone of devotional music. Driven by a reverential pipe-organ melody and washes of darker synth, a sense of deep loss and gnawing is invoked over which Ka-Spel flails back and forth, with lines referencing Mecca and the haunting couplet, “Chains wrapped ‘round your feet… / you’re obsolete!” The music swells to ever more elegant crescendos. Strongest track on the record, man.

“Touched By The Midnight Sun” is almost impossibly fragile and, there’s no other way to put it, defeated. Ka-Spel’s gorgeous lisp, birds chirping innocently and stillborn washes of crystalline electronics are the only melodic accompaniment to sing-song lyrics about the hells of being alone, and references to armies and outsiders. Stylistically similar to the ancient rites of Coil. “Rash” is a taut instrumental, with some blistering, though buried, guitars by Martijn de Kleer over pinging keyboard patterns.

I’ve read plenty of speculation that “The Day Before It Happened” is about September 11th, and I’m not sure if that’s directly true, but there are some powerful similarities to be found in a song about missiles that wiped out a village by mistake, and lyrics like, “The day before it happened/Nothing mattered/Well, at least that’s what you said.” In any case, the music evokes a feeling of simmering anxiety and fear, very pretty pulsing keyboards and random noises, but all with this tense underpinning of how quickly things can go wrong in the single click of a drum machine. Vocals sound every bit as mechanical as the instruments.

“Brighter Now” focuses on two lovers pondering their future against a backdrop of the ocean and nearby war and violence, with a sweeping piano roll and chaotic noise interruptions. Ka-Spel’s voice is huge in this one, perfectly matching the ragged power of the love he professes to feel. “Marz Attacks” is another instrumental, with some incredibly expressive double-tracked soloing courtesy of De Kleer; it reminds me of some of his work on Tear Garden’s “Last Man To Fly.” Notes drift and die like lightning bugs.

“Sabres at Dawn” lopes along like a whimsical children’s song, with a simple, happy melody – music approximating a woozy waltz, all offset by lyrics about wakes for dead friends, and splitting at the seams. “All the King’s Men” begins with an extended descent down into electronic hell, all manners of bubbling, screeching, pounding, creeping, yet without losing composure once. Perhaps Victorian hell, then. Then as all but a spare, sonic sparkle is left, Ka-Spel begins intoning lyrics through some manner of broken vocoder, as more electronics and heartbeats build and crash. With the final, terrifying line of, “Our superman! Show us the way, superman.” Uh oh…

The record ends on an ultimately confusing note, with a propulsive and atonal instrumental called “The Brightest Star.” It’s a somewhat unsatisfying ending to such a goddamn beautiful and sad collection of songs, but with the Pink Dots one must expect that things never go as they “should.”

ROIR Records:

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