King’s X

Everyone probably has a favorite band that never hit it big, that obviously (to you) deserved commercial success but remained on the fringes. Mine is King’s X. They have produced some of the most interesting rock albums of the past two decades, while remaining rather obscure as far as I know (aside from a brief opportunity to open for AC/DC in the early nineties). A trio with incredibly harmonies (they more or less use the background vocals as another instrument to round out the sound), shifting lead singers (mostly the bassist, but also the guitarist), and competent, sometimes complex music, I find I continue to enjoy their albums 15 years after I first heard them (oddly enough, I didn’t like their sound all that much when I first heard them). But their lyrics set them apart as they spell out a journey from faith to frustration to bitterness.

Many of their songs are relatively brief lyrically, a poetic burst wrapped in music. In the early going that had much to say about their faith and the church. Even their album covers are remarkable. The cover of Faith Hope Love (interestingly, the album they were pushing when they toured with AC/DC… it quotes 1 Corinthians 13 in full on the inside sleeve) is worth studying in detail, as it depicts all of history from the point of view of redemption.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of their lyrics. In King, they talk about the opposition of kingdoms:

you are the one who causes me pain
you are the one who causes me grief
you are the one who lied to me
it won’t be long soon you will see
king is coming…
you are the one who magnifies hate
you are the one who distorts our love
you are the one disguised as a saint
it won’t be long your kingdom will quake

Everywhere I Go makes a rather plain statement of trust:

ive been in tears
ive been the clown
ive had my doubts
what if im wrong
ive been in love
then maybe not
i crossed my heart
and then forgot
i read the story
that you died
i turned the page
you were alive
with hope and love
but mostly faith
one day ill see you face to face
everywhere i go i see you there

As does We Are Finding Who We Are:

forever is a mountain weve yet to climb
tears are a part of what is yet to leave behind
strength in numbers all you need is two
everyones a winner yet still so many lose
the volume of emotion erupting in our soul
a quiet revelation quickly takes a hold
patience is a virtue but she wont always wait
dissension is the tension its what weve learned to hate
it was late september i remember well
memories of the living the old man told the tale
of rising and falling and cruelty and kind
the thing the old man told me truly blew my mind
yes, now we are finding who we are
cause we can see forever
i know its been said so many times before
i once was blind but now i see
and sometimes it just makes no sense
but i believe yeah
we are finding who we are

They address abortion in Legal Kill:

i only know what i believe
the rest is so absurd to me
i close my eyes so i cant see
but the picture just gets clearer everyday
i read somewhere to learn is to remember
and ive learned we all forgot
there was peace in her before
but that was yesterday
but i can see the beauty that is here for me
the chance to live and walk free
from a legal kill
i know your side so very well
it makes no sense that i can tell
the smell of hell is what i smell
and you hand it out with handshakes everyday
i have trouble with the persons with the signs
but i feel the need to make my own
yes there are two ways to be
and truth does not depend on me
but i can feel the fight for life is always real
i cant believe its no big deal
its a legal kill

By their fifth album, however, there is more and more angst and less faith/hope/love. This change, however, leads to some their best work (if you like relatively hard-charging rock music). Lyrically, their angst is not entirely misdirected. For instance, contempt for their own petty concerns is found in Complain:

ozone disappearing in the sky
bud man asking us why ask why
if I could find my magazine this bug would die
I complain
China boy standing up to a tank
southern boy living in the house of yanks
if I can’t seem to get my motorbike to crank
I complain
complain so much easier
small kid begging for a crumb of bread
next kid bloated lying nearly dead
I wonder what to take for my aching head
I complain
lots of people crying for a little rain
whole nation learning how to live with pain
I don’t know how I’m gonna clean this little stain
I complain.
complain so much easier
black man singing Mississippi blues
Africa starves a little baby drools
I’m trying to figure out all the basketball rules
I complain
Mr. Rush Limbaugh giving me the facts
treetops falling and the newsman yaks
I’m thinking about Carter and how I’m gonna be taxed
hey
complain so much easier

And by the sixth album, it appears they are deeply struggling with their faith as described in Looking for Love:

A standard, a program, religion burns me at the stake.
I questioned, I listened, I worshipped. How can I relate?
I worked so hard at it … oh Lord the bruises and the burns.
I just don’t, don’t get it. I guess I lost my faith.
Oh, Lookin’ for love

Though there seems to still be a longing, as expressed in Run:

Yeah she told me, that if I wasn’t good
He would get me, make me pay for
everything I did, and she said
that everybody bad would burn in Hell
I did what she told me and I became someone else. I had to run
I had to hide
In the world outside
A better chance, out there
If God is everywhere.
I wait for nothing, take my chances let it ride
maybe there’s an answer but it’s buried by the lies
Somebody told me that it’s just a waste of my time.
But I can’t get rid of all those bags I left behind

And they’re not particularly happy at this stage as they describe a couple albums later in Bitter Sweet:

Ever reading… something’s bleeding in my soul
And I can’t seem to fill up the hole
And I love you… thinking of you… bitter sweet
So I bury the feeling and empty my head
Just to sleep… too deep
Watch me suffer… try to cover up the pain
And I stand on the roof in the rain
And I love you thinking of you… bitter sweet
So I bury the feeling and empty my head
Just to sleep… too deep

Pressing on to the next album, they seem to have switched allegiance as told in Believe:

If you ran away to loose your soul
And you’re scared to death you’re wrong,
If you’re past the point of turning back
And your innocence is gone
In yourself believe, it’s all right
In yourself believe, it’s all right

I realize that I’ve reprinted quite a few lyrics, but it is only a small sampling of the words behind many, many interesting songs King’s X has produced. At this stage, it doesn’t look like a happy ending, but I know of no other band that takes you along for the journey in such a compelling way (well, U2 probably qualifies). If you want to pick up an album of theirs, I recommend Dogman if you want a gloomier, harder album, or Faith Hope Love (or Gretchen Goes to Nebraska) for a more melodic, hopeful album.

1 Comment

  1. CuzNuz Ruth
    Jun 15, 2006

    What an interesting observation of life. I guess that’s why we are encouraged in Scripture to hold fast to our faith and not to let Satan snatch it away. Blessings.