It's a very good time to be a hapless fuzz-rock magnate: Youthful disaffection is at an all-time high as unemployment and student-loan debt reach peak levels. Groovy rippers like Hunx and Mark Sultan dot the landscape with throwback rock maneuvers, while punk burnouts like Wavves' Nathan Williams pack the bowl with unabashed distortion. The uncomplicated fun of King Tuff splits the difference, combining a versatile rock songwriting palette with shrugged-off simplicity. Kyle Thomas, who hails from the southeast Vermont town of Brattleboro, started calling himself King Tuff because it's got the same initials as his real name (duh) and began writing songs when he wasn't in bands like the folksy Happy Birthday and Witch, a blunt metal outfit with J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. His self-titled sophomore record (the first for indie giant Sub Pop Records) features a whiny charm and pop dexterity reminiscent of late punk Jay Reatard, bolstered by bright Superchunk hooks pinched out with keef-caked fingertips. "Stare at all the shit in your bedroom / And take a walk on the moon," he squeaks on "Alone and Stoned" alongside cheerful vocal harmonies and trippy guitars. However, the mellow "Unusual World" reveals a kind of solemn Kurt Vile introspection. King Tuff has the heart of a skillful songsmith, even as he maintains the posture of a gleeful hesher.
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