King Strang - King Strang and the Stranglers Live! (Cover Artwork)

King Strang

King Strang and the Stranglers Live! (2019)


King Strang is one of the three hundred and twenty four side projects (I’m only slightly exaggerating) of the various musicians in the Bridge City Sinners. He, alongside Lighting Luke (another BCS side project) and Clyde of Clyde and the Milltailers (another BCS side project), have been playing a very interesting take on the folk punk genre for a few years now, so when I heard he was putting out a live record, I knew I was going to have to check it out. All of these bands that grew from the Sinners have their own take on what this unique genre should sound like, and King Strang is definitely my favorite of the many side projects.

Strang is the upright bass player for the sinners, but in every iteration of this project, I’ve seen him playing guitar and singing, which seems to be the case on this live album. He brings to the genre a feel of old time swing bands, while keeping that punk flare. Its stripped of all of the horroresque themes of the Sinners, and is just “Everybody loves my baby” could have been a number one hit in 1936, with its catchy riffs and family friendly lyrics. The horns add to that swing feel, and the following tracks flow right through with the same theme. His voice is perfect for this style of music, bringing with it a sense that you’re listening to an old school crooner, while never really losing the flair or essence of the punk nature.

“Let’s Misbehave” and “Weed Smoker’s Dream” both step away from the more wholesome beginnings of the album, but without really digging into the lyrics one would never know that this was a punk band masquerading as an innocent throwback to our grandparent’s favorite tunes. As it is a live album, I can’t help but picture young ladies in poodle skirts dancing with handsome gentleman with oiled, slicked back hair, as Strang belts out “Let’s misbehave” in the chorus.

“Weed Smoker’s Dream” take a slight departure from the ragtime tunes, and you can feel the Bridge City Sinner’s roots erupting out of both the vocals and its backing melody. Still not as aggressive or in your face as BCS, but it definitely displays the symphonic collaborations that BCS has made their bread and butter. I can’t help but reiterate that Strang’s vocals work so perfectly with the music, and the horns act as perfect harmony to his choppy guitar riffs that break up the pauses between lyrics.

The final track “Sadie Green” starts with an unintentional spoken piece by a member of the crowd, or maybe the band. “Wait, don’t start yet, he’s got a beer in his hand.” The joys of recording a live album. It returns to the same feel of the first few tracks, while a bit more up tempo than some of the earlier ones, it still keeps with that swing dancing feel, and definitely puts a bow on the album.

I have to admit, that from the songs I’ve heard before from King Strang, I wasn’t expecting this from a live album. Perhaps it was because it was a live album, but the previous records/performances I’ve heard lean much more towards traditional bluegrass with a bit of a punk edge, whereas this, likely due to the instrumentation, lacked that feel of a band using whatever they can find to put out a decent tune. It wasn’t bad, by any means, but it wasn’t what I was looking forward to. I really expected more out of this album, but I’ll still remain a fan, and we’ll see what Strang brings next time around.