King Tuff 

King Tuff

I'm pretty sure it was Bob Dylan who convinced Jimi Hendrix that you don't have to be a good singer to sing, and this advice has resonated for bands ever since. It's produced mixed results, from the striking (Arcade Fire, Cursive) to the forgettable. Kyle Thomas and his crew of Vermonters fit the former here on their second album.

King Tuff is like Best Coast but slightly more masculine. Synthy pop rock with rolling surf beats features Thomas singing/whining about "going deeper to the unusual world" and being a stranger everywhere he goes. With a voice like that, it's hard to be a stranger long— he's got one of those voices to be loved or hated. The writing is reminiscent of Jay Reatard, without the edge. The guitars draw on late Stones and early psych.

Best track award goes to "Baby Just Break." It starts with a sweet acoustic jam, then gets all electric and sassy a minute in and leaves you as quick as it came, while you're stuck humming "Baby just break the rules." A close runner-up is "Swamp of Love," which takes a similar idea with even more of a Western twang to it. The fuzzy songs— well, maybe I'm just getting tired of it after decades of garage bands, but they rock pretty hard too.

King Tuff plays Zoo City Apparel Thu., July 19, with doors at 7 PM. $10/$8 advance.

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