Since founding the highly acclaimed Fence Collective and its physical incantation Fence Records back in the mid ’90s, Kenny Anderson a.k.a. King Creosote has spent the last decade recording and releasing near on forty folksy collections. The antithesis to today’s bland singer-songwriters it’s not just his impressive work ethic and overall quality of releases that is to be commended but also the resultant Scottish scene that he and the rest of Fence created. It’s with this in mind that when Domino Records came calling back in 2005 no one begrudged him the opportunity to ply his trade at a higher level. Rather than keeping to the world of mail order CD-Rs and after gig stalls, the temptation to move to London and be a part of a label where someone else does the leg work would have been too great for almost anyone.
He’s always been in good company and with other former Fence artists that made the jump to major (or bigger) labels such as James Yorkston and KT Tunstall, you could have been forgiven for thinking that is where is his struggling story would come to an end. However after two lackluster (by King Creosote’s usual high standards) but well received records for Domino, in amongst his usual Fence releases, Anderson is back in his beloved Fife having become disillusioned with life down in the big smoke. The result is a more impassioned record sprinkled with a new found regret that catches Anderson at his peak.
Opener “No One Had it Better” which creeps up with vocoder laden vocals results in sideward glances as you wonder if this is Kenny’s new Cher influenced sound before it builds into a krautrock stomp. It’s not entirely clear who the object of his “You can let me go now” plea is but it sounds pretty urgent and impassioned.
“Two Frocks at a Wedding” is reminiscent of the Beta Band at their most laid back, although it’s a Beta Band with the addition of falsetto vocals. It comes as no surprise then to learn that the former vocalist of that act, Steve Mason, lends more than a helping hand to the proceedings. Co-writing first single “Coast on By”, the story goes that Anderson laid down his chorus only to be greeted with a shrug and “was that it?” by Mason. After an impromptu extra couple of lines Anderson left Mason to it and it was this improvisation that the resulting song was built around. Probably the most commercial offering here it’s still a long way from what many would consider to be mainstream.
It’s hard not to spare a thought for Belle and Sebastian during “No Way She Exists”. While Stuart Murdoch readies his forthcoming soundtrack using guest vocalists, it’s welcome for Anderson to pick up where Belle & Sebastian left off a couple of records ago and you can’t help but be thankful that Creosote is the one recording it.
Subtle introspection is the name of the game on “Nothing Rings True”, a beautiful finger picked acoustic lament interspersed with delicate piano that on anybody else’s record would be the highlight. Flick the Vs is a vastly personal record and when the upbeat “Rims” segues into the string laden “Saw Circular Prowess” you can almost see Anderson’s wry smile and vindication — flicking the vs to any doubters.
While not hitting the heights of some of his releases on Fence this is definitely King Creosote’s most vital record that you can actually find in the shops. It’s the closest he has come linking both the worlds that he has inhabited and at the risk of coming over all indie elitist it’s all the better for not sounding as mainstream as his last full release. When he sings that he “just don’t give a fuck” you’re inclined to believe him.