Jagged riffage. Ominous basslines. Searing vocals that harmonize with even the darkest of instrumental melodies. These three elements don’t have much in common with each other on the surface, but within the eight songs that listeners will hear on King Ropes’ new record Gravity and Friction, they become quintessential components in a viciously addictive alternative rock cocktail.
There are no conventional genre labels that apply when trying to breakdown numbers like the title track, “Saint Peter,” “These Days,” “Brown” and “Mouth Full of Bees,” but despite the stylistic amalgamation that dominates the compositional structure of Gravity and Friction, its tracklist is startlingly fluid, and sometimes feels a little conceptual. From the get-go, it’s nearly impossible to turn back once we get started with these songs, as one slips into the next so seamlessly that it isn’t uncommon to find yourself starting one place only to end up in another with almost no idea how you got there. King Ropes use every weapon in their arsenal in “California Stars,” “Giacomo’s Assistant” and “Butterfly Joint” to cast a spell over anyone listening, and though their first record received a lot of respectable accolades, I don’t think it compares to what the group has achieved here.
The first half of Gravity and Friction is more focused and streamlined than the second is, which I found to be almost gleefully dark in certain spots. Tracks like “These Days” and “Mouth Full of Bees” are structural opposites, but their harmonies are definitely cut from the same cloth. There’s so much pain in both of these songs, so much uncut emotionality, while in others like “Butterfly Joint” and its neighbor in the tracklist, “California Stars,” feel almost robotic and colorless, though not devoid of some fascinatingly catchy riffs. From beginning to end, we’re never forced to endure a watered-down melody, nor are we ever asked to sit through predictable instrumental freak-outs or silly self-aware verses – it would appear, to me at least, as if King Ropes went out of their way to avoid the inclusion of such triteness on this latest release. They’ve outgrown such nonsensical aesthetics if they ever even accepted them to begin with.
Gravity and Friction is unquestionably one of the smartest rock albums to be released in all of 2019, and if it gets into steady rotation on the FM dial this August, there’s not a doubt in my mind that the rest of King Ropes’ discography will as well. They’ve been flying under the mainstream radar for a couple of years now, but what they’re laying down for audiences here is, in my opinion, really too good to be ignored. There’s still some room for growth in King Ropes, and I’m sure that they’re going to continue to cultivate this sound a little more than they already have in Gravity and Friction, but until we get a peek at their third official studio album, this is going to have to suffice for experimental rockers this summer. Every track here aches with emotion, and that alone makes this LP a winner in my book.