At the close of ‘No One Had It Better’, the opening song of King Creosote’s latest record, Flick The Vs, Kenny Anderson reprises not just the stirring ‘King Creosote Rules OK with me’ chant, but the chorus of ‘The Vice-Like Gist of It’, from KC Rules OK, perhaps his most successful record to date. Flick The Vs follows a crack at a radio-friendly album, Bombshell, and it’s hard not to see this recall of past glories on its opening track as a sort of declaration of ‘back to basics’ intent. Certainly, this new album, for all its varied influences, sounds more like the KC of old than that last LP: on ‘Camels Swapped for Wives’, he sings, ‘I don’t give a fuck about that.’ This, with its defiant, devil-may-care independent streak, is much more like it.
Were I Anderson, I might wake up in a cold sweat sometimes at the thought that my unassuming folk collective, Fence, has spawned KT Tunstall. In many ways, she is the antithesis of KC’s usual MO – accessible, brassy, uniform and well produced, the gloss of Tunstall’s records, is quite at odds with the approach of her erstwhile stablemates. Flick The Vs, unlike Bombshell lets the black horse ride off to the cherry tree, happier to stay behind in good old Fife. (The Forth bridge is in pride of place on the album’s artwork.)
To this end, back are the honking brass sections, the off-kilter lyrics which render the day-to-day noble and storied, and the infectious-but-creative arrangements. The classic KC sound consists of a bouncy pop which somehow manages to defy expectation. This is no easy feat – the catchiness of pop rests on its familiarity, and where Flick The Vs excells is in lodging itsef in the listener’s head without recourse to cliché. ‘Saw Circular Prowess’ is an anthemic singalong in which the vocals are almost lost amidst an amorphous swirl of strings and cymbals; ‘Coast On By’ a feel-good stomp which contrives to be existentially aware of its own mixed metaphors; ‘Rims’ sounds like the hit record Hot Chip would make if they weren’t busy passing off the ordinary as the new.Indeed, Flick The Vs has so much going on that it risks at times seeming disjointed – that it doesn’t is testament to Amnderson’s skill as a songwriter.
What nourishes all this creativity is very much that sense of place (this post’s title is taken from a lyric in album stand-out ‘No Way She Exists’). This makes the record an outward-looking, stay-at-home little thing. This is of the good: Anderson is clearly at his best when he’s at his most comfortable. Many musicians stay vital by staying restless, but Flick The Vs shows there is another, more domestic, path to greatness.