There’s a fine line for musicians who use humor in their music. Too much humor and you’re not really taken seriously as musicians or a band. You’re tossed into the category of comedians who make music. You’re labeled as kitschy, just a novelty. But humor, when used effectively, can be a dangerous weapon. Look at Fountains of Wayne. They use humor to set up poignancy. The moment you start laughing at their joke, they cut you with lines of searing pain and emotional resonancy.
Viral video success doesn’t necessarily relate to musical success, but after watching the video for No More King’s “Sweep the Leg,” a tribute to Cobra Kai and The Karate Kid, there was something to it. It was funny, in a laugh your ass off kind of way, but something about the song made me want to listen to the other songs on their eponymous debut album. There was something clever about writing a song based on the demons Johnny has from sweeping Daniel-San’s leg.
Cover art aside, which is pretty horrible (not the artwork per say, but the cover design), the album from No More Kings, which is Pete Mitchell on vocals and Neil Robins playing guitar, bass, piano and keys, is a decent slice of funky, humorous songwriting. Never spilling over into kitsch, the breezy summertime vibe album is like a trip down memory lane for kids of the 80’s.
Other musicians joined in to round out the sound, but make no mistake the album is all about Pete and Neil. In a way, an album like this was an eventuality. Kids raised in the halcyon days of the 80’s, there really wasn’t much to do other than be raised by pop culture. That was our reality. Cartoons, movies, shows like Knight Rider, were our teachers.
Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman are the perfect examples of writers who’s perspective is mitigated by pop culture. It’s there only frame of reference. No More Kings is kind of like the Simmons and Klosterman of the music world.
There’s breazy tunes give off a carefree vibe, but there’s more to the pop culture references than meets the eye. It would be all to easy to write this band off because of songs like “Sweep the Leg” or even “Michael (jump in),” a little dity from the eyes of K.I.T.T. That would be a disservice.
Often times the pop culture references would go unnoticed, like the song “About Schroeder,” which may or may not be about a woman in love with Ricky Schroeder or the character from The Peanuts. Either way, the gentle piano ballad is heartbreaking in its simplicity. Telling about a woman in love with a man she’ll never have.
“Throw on my hammer pants/I’m busting moves to Can’t Touch This.” It’s lines like this in the song “Someday” about oneday being a smooth dancer or pondering his future, “someday I’ll know when you’ve left me on my own/How far I’ll go” that makes me think this band is capable of being more Fountains of Wayne and not a cheesy one-off band. Only time will tell.