In the CD copy of the Faith Hope Love I have owned for 17 years, is a dollar bill signed by Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill (because Ty Tabor never came out of the tour bus – he probably still doesn’t). And I remember them looking at me puzzled when I asked them to sign it, but just had to explain … it’s the only piece of paper I got. It is also the only ‘rock’ signature/autograph I have ever possessed. I have never sought out those I admired, bought and respected. No hanging out at the airport or hotel lobby, or waiting around their second home’s garden gates waiting to catch a glimpse. Except for King’s X. I’d wait around after their shows with a whole host of other fans, hoping to tell them how much I loved them and that they mattered in my life. They were worth it. They required a signature. And sometimes, I just open up the CD case, and take out that dollar bill, and look at the signatures of Doug Pinnick and Jerry Gaskill covering up the founding father’s visage, and remember what it was like to love a band that much.
FAITH HOPE LOVE is a far different affair than its predecessor ‘Gretchen Goes To Nebraska’. ‘Gretchen’ tended to keep within a particular framework and its songs all had a persisting need to be heard with eachother. They complimented one another in the King’s X ’sound’ of 1989. The listener could tell the band was growing and expanding this ’sound’ with one listen to its predecessor ‘Out of the Silent Planet’, far simpler in execution with less instrument augmentations. Faith Hope Love takes this ’sound’ and experiments with it, sometimes with leaps, often with bounds, and with great talent and vision. No, not all songs are immediate (unless you’re totally in love as I was with King’s X back in 1990) but what you will find here are moments quite gentle, exquisite, honest, powerful, experimental and passionate.
This was also the album that made me wonder what King’s X possessed musically that I lacked. And it wasn’t a question of playing skills and technical prowess. It was a question of ‘what’ is that thing they are putting into their songs that makes them so …… good. It’s the only word that suffices to explain a thing, an emotion very hard to describe. To me, King’s X had a spirit, a force working through them that I just did not have. One could call that God, one could call that belief, one could call it any thing they so wished. In hindsight, I think what I was seeing in them was their belief in what they were doing and how it was done. What they put into it. How they worked together. How 3 people could make a song sound like 1 person unified. To me, it was magic what they did.
I think this album’s phenomenal. It might be my sentimental favourite. It is one I attach a great affection towards, regardless if I listened to ‘Gretchen’ or ‘Dogman’ more or less than it. Faith Hope Love is an album of great depth, sincerity and … passion. With each listen, a new thing is heard, observed, noticed. Some of the things sneak up on you. Some catch your ‘eye’ automatically. It is an album that opens up like a little treasure chest. Some of the gems are ornate, some are simple. Some appear like costume jewellery, others like shining diamonds. No matter the contents of the chest, you value each and every stone and trinket discovered. All have equal value. Time may change your views of their gleam, but not a single thing is ever removed from that chest. Kind of like a wrinkled and faded dollar bill, criminally defaced by two signatures that make it worth a hundred times its value to the possessor.
With this album, I also associate the feeling of contempt and indignance. Not at King’s X. At the media, and particularly other bands at the time, who appeared far more successful with something that I had known about since ‘Out of the Silent Planet’. And I know all is ‘cool’ with parties involved, and this is not meant to enrage fans of, nor hold on to a grudge, but the one band that I remember being enraged with the most was ….. Pearl Jam. I remember how incredibly successful this band was with its first album in 1990. And I distinctly remember hearing ‘Jeremy’ and being absolutely fuming with this contempt and indignance. Because ‘Jeremy’ was a King’s X song, but with Eddie Vedder singing it instead. This was further fueled by seeing them perform live on Saturday Night Live, and seeing the bass player (Jeff Ament) WEARING a King’s X shirt while performing. I was in my early 20’s at the time. I did not understand Ament’s purpose in doing so was ‘advertisement’ and ‘promotion’ of a band he truly loved. All I saw was – you took King’s X’s sound, you’ve made a huge amount of money with it, and with your spare change you bought one of their shirts. That’s all I saw. And there were a small number of bands that sounded like King’s X on the horizon and in 1990 that further made me look at King’s X and wonder …. why aren’t they as successful??? It’s their sound! They should have put a patent on it! A ® on their work ready to claim infringement of their art at a moment’s notice, and with accolades pouring in for its innovativeness and ability to inspire? And the money. It was in 1990 that I knew the music business was wrong. It was upside down. It was unfair. And it left a slightly bitter aftertaste. My affection for this album grew, but also an intense protective jealousy towards others who tried to see inside the treasure chest and rob it of its jewels. If no one wants King’s X, then they will be mine was the attitude, because you don’t know what you’re missing. And those fans upon fans of Pearl Jam and others, only had a portion of a portion of that chest. They had the chain that at its end once held a diamond encased in gold. Not the whole thing.
I’m thinking of the songs now that this album possesses, and I can’t really think of a place to go with words that adequately says what’s in that treasure chest of trinkets and rare gems. A sudden flash of “Everywhere I Go” comes in like an echo, only to be replaced by the beautiful “Legal Kill” (its most honest and profound line being ‘truth does not depend on me’). Pinnick’s vocal exuberance during the extensive title track, hidden behind a multi-layered King’s X ‘Orchestra’ of instruments, or his strange disembodied like singing approach to “Talk To You”, restrictive and cold as the person describes the inability to talk to those as unable to talk themselves. Pinnick’s vocals throughout this album are as experimental as the music itself, and the styles embraced and abandoned since their previous effort. And the unity. The unity in which this all is presented by Tabor, Gaskill and Pinnick is something truly to be noticed and appreciated. Faith Hope Love in its artwork and fashion (and its title “by King’s X”) is their statement. A manifesto. It’s their ‘piece’. Not presented as a concept album by any means, it is more, these are the collected writings of three people (and one producer) about a certain thing (or three things). Look at the work as a whole, not as 5 short stories, 2 poems, and 6 novellas. It is meant to be Faith Hope Love by King’s X, the collected writings about how they felt at the time about things.
This would be the part where I could go on about Tabor’s amazing solo during ‘Moanjam’, or Gaskill’s drumbreak and fills during ‘I Can’t Help It’, or the when does this song actually end start and stop fashion of ‘We Were Born To Be Loved’. In fact, you know when the song actually does end by the time you’re used to its finale, but it’s getting there each time which is so expectant and fun and joyous to celebrate that makes it a vicious cycle of pretending not knowing when it ends, but completely knowing when it does. Magic. The rabbit you know will appear out of that hat, but you still like seeing it rise up with assistance regardless.
This is not that part of my review. That was just an excerpt of wanting to say so many things, but words do not suffice.
Please purchase anything by King’s X. I did. And it left me with so many words unsaid and spoken, that I think they will stay with me a lifetime.