PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

The Legendary Pink Dots: All the King's Men

Nikki Tranter

The Legendary Pink Dots

All the King's Men

Label: ROIR
US Release Date: 2002-09-23
UK Release Date: 2002-10-29
Amazon
iTunes

The Legendary Pink Dots' first album, Brighter Now, released in 1980, remains a remarkable piece of work. It's a smart record filled with quietly disturbing imagery about disaster-filled relationships, screwed-up self-doubt and political paranoia. The album was a huge side-step away from the mainstream, signaling the band's willingness to color outside the lines, to be proud of their pretentiousness and confident in their ability to create definitive electronic power-punk-pop in Pink Floyd / David Bowie-type fashion.

Throughout their ever-changing, exciting career, the Dots continued to refuse to stick to pop conventions, never quite building songs more than epic recorded poetry, designed to freak-out the listener in a decidedly simplistic way, evoking images of the 1960s psychedelic wayfarer nodding his head to the groove entirely unaware of the intricate messages floating in and out of his brain inside that groove.

The Dots' latest release, All the King's Men follows this trend. After 20-odd years of cultivating their sound, the band has strung together some of the most daring and dangerous stanzas of their career, in what is intended as a reaction to September 11 and it's aftermath.

The poetry remains as deftly caustic and hellishly sharp as ever, with the band thankfully steering well clear of stream-of-consciousness rambling and ranting, instead to build genuinely affecting images of lost hope, broken dreams and political and emotional scarring. The album seeks not to represent the thoughts of the majority -- there's no Angry American sentiment here for the flag-raisers to hide behind, it's just a personal response to what is for many, an ultra-personal event.

The Dots have no answers, and they don't ask that many questions either, choosing to simply react, to bounce ideas around, field tension and defy tradition. In a kind of hopeless hopefulness, with All the King's Men, the band strings together long moments of instrumental solitude, sometimes repeating the same chords over and over for more than five minutes, among moments of cautious awakening -- what exactly happened on September 11, not to the world at large, but to the individual, to me? And speaking from their own personal experience in the wake of the tragedy, the Dots seek to awaken in their listeners the very same thinking.

All the King's Men opens with the intense "Cross of Fire" featuring solid ideas of conformity in the face of despair -- "I'll walk the line / I'll hug the curve / And look away with blind respect", band leader Edward Ka-Spel sings, before presenting the image of the American flag as the "cross" itself ("Cross of Fire / Splashed on a courthouse / Cross of fire / Waved from a truck"). Ka-Spel demonstrates his desire here, to be as forthright with his audience as he can, speaking of white sheets and corrupt judges, the feeling of having no choice but to go with the flow in such political and social turmoil when the average Joe has little say in the way of governmental response to catastrophe.

These kinds of images are scattered throughout the album. Cackling crows, hearts of stone, crossed fingers and black arms signify the anger and despair of September 11, while questions of connection and placation are also raised in seeming protest against our return to normalcy regardless of the whisper of war in the air.

The beautiful "The Warden" contains the album's bravest moments, with direct references to the Muslim faith. "Now down boy / Turn to Mecca / Keep those eyes down to the floor", Ka-Spel sings in dramatic monotone in a song referencing those responsible for hijacking the planes that crashed in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC and the direct link between faith and fear. "The Day Before it Happened" features a similar sentiment, though from the perspective of the attacked. I'll "fix my teeth" and "dye my hair" later on, says this simple idea of our constant ignoring of living each day as though it will be our last.

Ultimately, All the King's Men confronts individual human issues relating to the disaster of September 11, feelings of mortality and immortality, despair, regret and, maybe, a little hope. The Dots, with this album, retain the subdued beauty of Brighter Now while establishing themselves as a continuing and relevant force on the Indie scene, producing a poetic and truly unique piece of work backed by unassuming electronic beats and bizarre cyber-melodies that will effortlessly shock, endear, frighten and comfort.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.