Kyle Thomas is one of those people that you often see described as a “local hero.” These characters usually fall into one of three categories: weirdos (the glue-sniffer that chases cars and lives in the dumpster behind the chemist), chancers (the guy that supposedly jammed onstage with Tom Petty at that gig that nobody you know actually attended) and dudes whose reputations are based on something real like talent or achievement. Thomas – AKA King Tuff – is something of an amalgamation of all three. A very visible fixture on the Vermont alt-rock scene for a number of years, firstly as part of avant-folk troupe Feathers, then as vocalist with J. Mascis’ stoner metal project Witch and, more recently, front-man of Sub Pop-signed psych-poppers Happy Birthday, his tall tales and larger-than-life persona, combined with a seasoned songwriter’s touch and impressive rock chops, have made him a well-liked and critically-acclaimed legend in his own lifetime. Following on from 2008’s …Was Dead, Thomas’ second full-length under the King Tuff moniker is a mouthy little punk of a record with a bruised vagabond heart dressed up in glam rock’s spangly outfits; a sparkling collection of tambourine-shaking stomp-alongs and Southern boogie riff-o-rama, topped off with a sprinkling of flower-child faerie dust. Electrifying rockers like steroid-pumped Bolan boogie “Stranger”, proto-metaller “Bad Thing” and “Anthem”, with its handclaps and twisting lead hook, delicately balance Thin Lizzy bluster and bubblegum power pop, whilst “Unusual World” and “Evergreen” showcase a more pastoral side via wispy psych-folk melodies and jangling acoustic guitars; the group even excel at epic slow-burners, breaking out the wailing solos, splashing cymbals and harmony vocals on “Swamp Of Love” & “Stupid Superstar.” Though it leans heavily on the sounds of the pre-punk ’70s, King Tuff manages to pull off that rarest of feats: not only is it a lot of fun, but it sounds impressively fresh too. Looks like Vermont’s local hero might be about to go global.
King Tuff is out May 28 on Sub Pop