It’s been six years since King Khan and the Shrine’s soul-psych extravaganza What Is?, where the Montrealean garage revivalist channeled an acid-tripping Sam and Dave or, perhaps, a Syd Barrett duck-walking in shiny pointed dress shoes. Khan has apparently spent the early teens honing a sleeker, denser, more Spector-esque sound, the raw scrape of, say, “Torture” moussed and primped into a wall-to-wall swirl of sensation. At its best, for instance in the unstoppable “I Got Made,” Khan balances a sharp, swaggering attack with the pillow-y lushness of a Morricone score. Or he allows bumping 1960s Motown bass-lines and crackling Blaxploitation wah wah solos to simmer under the giddy crescendos of girl-group-y “Thorn In Her Pride.” And single, “Bite My Tongue” (in the video a profanely hilarious Batman vs. Jesus duel) has the slanted drive of a Nuggets garage anthem, embellished with the brass and string swells lifted from James Brown.
No one who’s seen Khan play would ever accuse the man of minimalism, so this must be the way he heard his music all along, slathered over with strings, bursting at the seams with big band blasts and blares. Still, I could do without all the glockenspiel and a good bit of the violins. There’s a tipping point not too far from where Khan has landed when retro-soul orchestration turns into pastiche. And anyway, great soul has always been about the rasp as well as the smooth-i-tude, the sweat alongside the cool-ness. King Khan is, so far, pursuing a sound that is more huge than slick, and it sounds great. But careful, man, you’re only about half a step from the faultline.
DOWNLOAD: “Bite My Tongue,” “Thorn in Her Pride” “I Got Made”