The Kings of Nuthin' - Over the Counter Culture (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Kings of Nuthin'

Over the Counter Culture (2006)

Sailor's Grave

Those sneaky Germans managed to get this record out last year under the title of Punk Rock Rhythm & Blues, which is really the most remarkably blunt way to describe Boston's Kings of Nuthin'. The band's first full-length in four years is a winner, comprised of a slate of quality originals and a mix of nicely chosen covers all presented in the Kings' trademark style. Once again the band's pulled together `50s rock and roll, swing and big band music, channeled it through some vintage street punk influences and presented with enough barely-controlled energy as possible.

The album's title track (and theme song) brings the elements into focus. Torr Skoog grunts and slurs his way through the lyrics not unlike fellow Bostonian Dicky Barrett. He's backed by Liam Crill's aggressive drumming, the honky-tonk piano of Turpentine Brother Zack Brines and a bit of vintage rock guitar from Trafton Waldrop. The accompaniment is generous, with each song featuring the percussive click of an upright bass, a washboard player and two if not three saxophones. This formula's worked into the covers, quite effectively claiming them as the Kings' rightful domain. Their cover of the Anti-Nowhere League's "For You" is infinitely more fun and interesting than Lars Frederiksen's recent attempt, and Peter & the Test Tube Babies' "Banned from the Pubs" is so appropriate to this band's own storied history. A bit of vintage R&B shines through with Doc Starkes and the Night Riders' "Women and Cadillacs" as well as songs from Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and `50s vocalist Young Jesse. On the punk side of things, there's an understandably aggressive cover of the Blitz' "Nation of Fire," a nice version of Stiff Little Fingers' "Here We Are Nowhere" and a song from the infamously young-at-their-start `70s punk act Eater.

Still, with all the covers and famous names gracing the liner notes, the Kings of Nuthin' are at their best with their own material. "Only Time" is the real highlight of the album, an obvious single and a simply well written song by any measure (the transition between verse and chorus is remarkably fluid and catchy). The Kings are packing some serious songwriting skills, and while their rearrangements are interesting it would be nicer to see that muscle flexed with more original material.

Over the Counter Culture should be required listening for anyone into modern day U.S. street punk, as it easily outshines much of it when thrown in that category. This should have legs outside that scene though, as this is really more fun than anything else released this year.