[25 April 2013]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
This British band does a remarkable job of rotoscoping. On their debut album, Cannibals With Cutlery, lead singer Ralph Pelleymounter sounds so amazingly like Matt Berninger, especially on opening cut, the piano ballad “I Work Nights and You Work Days”, that if you heard this and thought you had a new National song on your hands, it would be entirely understandable. Meanwhile, the rest of the group provides backing that nestles right into the jangly folk-rock strum of Mumford & Sons, offering a pinch of strings and horns to give it that indie rock, Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene street cred. This is a band that has some experience with working with clay to build a bold and updated version of the Big Music that characterized the Waterboys’ early output. Well, kind of: The comparison is not exact, but it comes from that stable of feeling, at least.
What To Kill a King obviously doesn’t have experience in, though, is working with a piece of wood and a knife. At 55 minutes in length, Cannibals With Cutlery could have been easily winnowed down to a more manageable 40 minutes or so, which is especially true considering the relative sameness of the material. (And, while we’re at it, the title track is a 43 second fragment of an idea that goes nowhere. It could have been chop-chopped.) However, the more that you listen to Cannibals With Cutlery, the more you get carried away by it. I didn’t think very much of this upon the first listen, but by the third time through, I was starting to become gradually won over by the band’s signature sound, even if it does eventually run out of steam 10 out of 13 tracks in. To Kill a King has a natural knack for a melody, and, at times, such as on the anthemic “Rays”, the songwriting is pure bliss. So if you can overlook the fact that Cannibals With Cutlery is a tad on the long side, you may find a great deal to enjoy and be amused with. Even if that amusement comes solely in playing a game of “spot the influences”, which To Kill a King wear proudly on their collective sleeves.