Album Review: King Tuff – Was Dead




The demand for sweltering garage bashes and skittering guitars has not only encouraged fuzz-pedal enthusiasts to release albums on almost a monthly basis, but to reissue their older, weirder albums. Newfound appreciation has led to this hunger for grungy, piss-stained chords — the dirtier the better. We’re talking about the Bay Area’s Traditional Fools and their self-titled, which dropped in December, and garage darlings Mikal Cronin and Ty Segall, releasing Reverse Shark Attack back in January. For the first time, Vermont native King Tuff’s earliest collection of recordings, the crunching Was Dead, is seeing the neon laptop glow of the internet. And it’s blinding.

The man who goes by Tuff is less a biker gang leader and more of a stoner warmed by the mess of his Vermont adolescence. Self-described, Was Dead is a bona fide Vermont record, “fueled by extra sharp Cabot cheddar cheese and hot, grade-A fancy maple syrup poured over crisp white snow and served with a pickle and a cider donut. You sit down on the shitty concrete in the parking lot and you slurp it all up.”

Tuff’s nasal voice is threaded from the most honest stuff, even if the emotions are simple. “Baby I’m so sweet on you” begins the album’s first scratchy track, “Dancing on You”. It’s grimier than the darling King Tuff we know today, yet from the very start, Was Dead struts onward, from the cotton-candy high of a summer sweetheart in “Connection” into the lickety-split blues of “Lady”. The folk-punk revival beats loudly on Was Dead, and the sugarcoated cavities of “A Pretty Dress” are reminiscent of Bob Dylan at his warbliest or the short-lived days of The Animals.

When you listen to King Tuff, you’re struck with the overarching feeling that everything is going to be okay. You’re spurred to want to follow the man with the wobbly voice and the guitar pointed forward. He doesn’t necessarily know where he’s going, but he’s sincere. And really, it’s about the journey.

 Essential Tracks: “Dancing on You”, “Sun Medallion”, and “Connection”