One L of a reincarnation

Reviews: King L The Borderline, London Giles Smith
King L is a new band formed by Gary Clark, once the front man with the pop group Danny Wilson. Limbering up ahead of the release in September of their debut album, A Great Day for Gravity, they were top of the bill last weekend at the tiny Borderline, pulling off the difficult trick of being extremely noisy and extremely tuneful at the same time.

King L represents, for Clark, what rock critics are apt to call "a departure". When Danny Wilson split up, Clark recorded a solo album called Ten Short Songs About Love. A visit to Clark's basement studio, shortly after the release of that album, revealed a copy of Brian Wilson's autobiography on the floor beside the microphone stand; the influence of the Beach Boy had seeped deep into the songs - their small-scale intricacy, their emphasis on melody above all.

The recipe for King L is altogether simpler but still more zesty on the palate. Keyboards have been banished to some other galaxy. The new songs are modelled on loud, full, rounded guitar chords, above which Clark's voice hoists instantly memorable melodies. "Tragedy Girl" beds itself in your consciousness within about half a minute of its opening. "Back to Loving Arms" is gutsy and plangent. "Tom Driver" has a weighty and insidious guitar hook and, again, a chorus which you cannot shake. Your abiding sense is of someone rediscovering an old, straightforward pleasure.

At the Borderline, the band came on amid the usual clunking of leads into guitars and strumming of random test-chords. "Mine's working!" Clark was heard to shout, with schoolboy glee, above the din.

Clark is accompanied on guitar in King L by Neil MacColl, formerly of the Bible. Tipped in these pages for hot chart action in '95, the Bible split up almost immediately. MacColl's presence here - as well as the songwriting involvement of Boo Hewerdine - is our consolation.

On bass is Eric Pressley, whose name rings a bell. And on drums is Matt Laug, who was a blur for most of the show, except for those moments at the close of songs, which he spent poking his head between the cymbals and brandishing his sticks at the audience like someone taunting a wild animal.

They dipped into Clark's back-catalogue just once, retrieving "Let's Make A Family" from the solo album. They also turned out a spirited, bottom- heavy version of the old Bible favourite "Honey Be Good" - which was sort of Boo Hewerdine meets Kurt Cobain and buys him a pint.

Clark is presumably, at this early stage, ready to put up with people calling out for the Danny Wilson singles - for "Mary's Prayer", say, or "The Second Summer of Love". Indeed, the Borderline is small enough that you could lean out of the audience with a pen and simply insert your request in the band's set-list. Nobody, it seems, did this, and certainly nobody requested those songs aloud, which can be read as a beefy endorsement for the new material. We were entirely satisfied with what we got.