Updated: Apr 17
Bonny King Charles has had a colourful career so far, mirroring his exuberant aura and look. Classically trained in singing and no stranger to a range of instruments meant that music was written in the stars for him. After a brief flirtation at Durham Uni, he explored a collective output by adopting the moniker of King Charles and forming Adventure Playground. This saw him support the likes of Noah and the Whale and Laura Marling. Following this, he headed down the solo route, where he toured the UK and US with Mumford & Sons.
In 2009, he achieved a monumental feat by being the first Brit ever to win the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville for his ditty Love Lust, and it was judged by no other than Tom Waits amongst other prodigiously respected artists. Signing to Universal Republic followed as did debut album Love Blood and then in 2016, Gamble From A Rose, produced by Marcus Mumford, was released.
The West-London singer’s style is hard to pin down, and new LP Out Of My Mind, dropping on April 17th, is no different. His sound has been described in many ways, such as psychedelic rock to electronic folk and lots more in-between; this LP still embraces all of the above. Charles had a dreadful ski accident in 2010, and the songs reflect his long road to recovery mentally and physically; he even snuck a mini-synth into the hospital and wrote some of the album there. It’s almost as if he is revealing his new, changed self to his fans and the world.
We open with Freak building from a calming bass and tambourine into a woozy soulful tune. However, the lyrics express a darker, angrier story as Charles was feeling great turmoil, so he began exploring humanity. “I've never really felt alive. I'm heading for a suicide," truthfully expresses the pain he felt. Title track the great Out Of My Mind comes next, again starting simply to lull you in, then transforming with the bass drum and synth effects until we arrive at his impressive falsetto voice for the chorus. This theatrical track would not be out of place as part of a Peaky Blinders soundtrack.
There is a more urban, trap feel for Money Is God with a spoken word intro alluding to Charles taking an exclusive flight. More voices and sounds are layered here as they expose the idea, “Money is the medicine, the opiate, the heroine." Whilst it’s good to appreciate the explorative effort, this isn’t where I connect as much with King, which can also be said for the dance vibes of Drive All Night. Penultimate track Watchman has an enticing riff and again those signature keys. The melody of the chorus is infectious and just lovely, but we are treated to an enjoyable twist where it climaxes to a thrashy, powerful end, which leads us to a golden end track in Feel These Heavy Times.
Sometimes when a record as a whole piece of art isn’t cohesive, it doesn’t work; Out Of My Mind isn’t always cohesive, but heartily and eclectically works. This artist certainly challenged himself; it’s raw, honest, and takes the listener on his journey, though his eyes, personality oozing out of every pour. His headline tour has been rescheduled for October, and to hear his voice live along with the energy and intensity he brings will be a flamboyant and opulent occasion.
Article by Beverley Knight