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Dark City Kings - Love Is Punk (self-released)

9 July 2024

I must admit that when I read lines in press releases such as “[ Dark City Kings ] sound as if Debbie Harry was lead singer of The Waterboys,” I often think that some overexcited publicity hireling has just gotten a bit carried away with the hyperbole. After all, bands rarely live up to such claims, and if any band could marry the pop sophistication of the former with the romantic sweep of the latter, I’d eat my hat.

One hat later (to season well and eat quickly is the secret), and I’m thoroughly enjoying Love Is Punk an album that does sound as if Mike Scott’s reference points had been less Neil Young, Van The Man and His Bobness (that’s Mr Zimmerman to you) and more the new wave and pop of the late seventies.

Swinging from songs such as “Trouble,” which drives on post-punk-pop smarts, to “True Believer,” which is anthemic Celtic folk writ large, it is an album that bridges folk traditions and pop pursuits. “Buckminster Fuller” sounds like B-52s singing about a traditional British beer but is actually about an American architect and polymath and things round off with the title track, which could be a long-lost ballad by The Alarm, which is fine by me.

When people use the term pop-folk, they are usually talking about some fresh-faced troubadour with complicated hair and an acoustic guitar singing, sappy, sentimental songs aimed at sappy, sentimental people. From now on, when I think of pop-folk, nothing less than Dark City Kings will ever suffice. The benchmark has been set—do your worst, people.