Sun 13’s Lost Albums features are generally quite a joy to write, as they involve relistening to an album we love, an album that we think has gone under appreciated, and shining a bit of love on it again.
While writing these features, we have noticed that there are various levels of being lost – some of these albums did well in the charts only to fall out of favour later on, some sold in meagre quantities but have a lot of cult love going for them, but the album we are looking at today could be said to be loster than most (if ‘loster’ is even a word).
The album we are looking at today is Screaming by King Trigger, a record that did not even get released in this country and one that fans had to try to hunt down on import. It was worth the effort however, because Screaming is a wonderful record full of joy, life and energy. As technology changed, it was to be the first album I ever bought on iTunes.
I first came across King Trigger as a support act at Liverpool Warehouse and fell instantly in love with them. Their music saw the coming together of two of post-punk’s main sounds, pounding tribal drums and funky guitar.
The beats were mainly supplied by the diminutive powerhouse that is Trudi Baptiste, whose incredible drumming propelled the songs along on huge waves of primal rhythms, backed up with extra percussion from Ian Cleverly. This two pronged attack gave the songs huge presence, especially when played live.
Funk laden guitar was added by Martyn Clapson, giving the songs catchy hooks and even more energy. Singer Sam Hodgkin was a great frontman with a fine voice and Stuart Kennedy added a bass groove into the mix. Live they were a riot of colour and constant movement.
Their appeal was instant and King Trigger quickly found themselves feted in the music press, appearing on the front cover of Melody Maker before they had even released a record. They were, quite rightly in my opinion, hotly tipped as ‘the next big thing’.
But then a strange thing happened.
King Trigger released their catchiest song, River, as a single and those of us who frequented ‘alternative’ clubs in the early ’80s will remember how the dance floor filled when it was played. River was a classic example of the ‘don’t bore us, get to the chorus’ approach to writing pop songs, starting out with Hodgkin singing “River, river in the jungle.” Just those words were enough to send us tearing to the dancefloor to hurl ourselves around with youthful abandon.
River became so popular that it kind of doomed the band to novelty single status. Second single, Temptation, disappeared without a trace and King Trigger, despite their excellent catalogue of songs, became one hit wonders.
As is often the case with our lost album features, I find myself at a complete loss as to thy this happened. King Trigger had the songs to back up the hype, they had press support, were loved when they played live and they looked great, why would this not transfer into record sales?
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I can only imagine that people who loved River did not feel the same way about Temptation and, upon seeing this, their record company assumed their time was over to such an extent that they refused to even release their album. Maybe if they had chosen a different song as their follow up single, such as the insanely catchy Vodka, things would have been different. Maybe not.
King Trigger being known only for River is similar to Slade nowadays being known only for Merry Christmas, despite a run of singles and album that ruled the ’70s – they have both been reduced to their most popular song and all else that they have created is forgotten. This is a huge shame because King Trigger’s album, Screaming, lives up to their early hype, and then some.
Screaming starts with Vodka featuring King Trigger’s trademark wild drumming and, after a few short bars, the rest of the band join in. It has an irresistible groove and listening to it again I am instantly reminded of just how good a band King Trigger were. The song is almost impossible to be still to, even sat down writing this I am instantly drawn to moving, head shaking and air drumming. It is a riotous affair. It has a joie de vivre that I have seldom found in any other band’s music.
Lay Your Hands On Me and Twenty-Nine Ways up the indie funk quotient and showed there was more to the band than Burundi rhythms. Both songs are infectiously fun and as catchy as you like without losing the post punk feel, particularly with Clapson’s incredible guitar work. There is something of a Keith Levine influence going on under the glossy surface that puts me in mind of Massive Attack’s Mezzanine.
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Next track Blood was a live favourite with its gently rolling drums and a chorus made for communal singing. It is easy to picture King Trigger performing this to huge crowds singing the chorus back at them. Fever slows things down with a slow burn of a song. Tension builds as the song starts out sparse and quiet with skeletal guitar working away in the background. Around the one minute mark, the song bursts into life as the drums & bass kick in but the song still sounds almost threadbare. It is a mark of skill that so many elements can play together and still leave space for a song to breathe. Hodgkin’s vocals suit King Trigger’s music perfectly, with undercurrents of angst and an innate sense of timing.
Next up is The Hit. River is undoubtedly one of the great songs of the ’80s and one that still hits the nostalgia button for people of a certain age. It is included in both original and 12” mix versions and still manages to excite and get under your skin. However, if this is the only King Trigger song you know you owe it to yourself to check out the rest of this album.
Shut Up is, for my money, the album’s highlight. Trudi Baptiste’s ferocious drum are high in the mix from the beginning as the song starts with shouted “Shut up!” Trumpets are added for further funky effect, as are screams and shouts. The overall effect is a high energy delight of a song that again demands dancing. Looking for comparisons to what else was going on at the time, I’m going to say that this is Pigbag meets Bow Wow Wow, but better than anything either of those bands came up with.
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Second single Temptation is up next and is another tribal romp. A record that should have capitalised on the success of their debut stalled for some reason, but is as fine a piece of ’80s guitar pop as you are ever likely to hear. I’m sure there must be an alternative universe somewhere where Temptation continued the trajectory set by River and King Trigger became global pop stars, releasing album after album of glorious tribal pop until splitting in a whirl of super model girlfriends, festival headline slots and newspaper headlines. I’d very much like to go there someday.
Walking Poison was another live favourite with a great call and response chorus. I am rapidly running out of adjectives to say just how infectious, catchy and joyous King Trigger’s music is, so you’ll just have to forgive me for repeating myself. I absolutely defy anyone to be able to listen to this and keep still. Walking Poison’s breakdown is as impressive a piece of music as you are ever likely to hear.
Walk the Plank brings the original album to a close in some style, shorn again of tribal drums, showing just what a fine band King Trigger were regardless of what the prevailing musical trends of the time were.
Following this, there are alternative and extended versions of River, Vodka, Temptation and Lay Your Hands On Me, along with B-Side Running Away, all of which are worth the price of the album on their own.
Screaming is that rarest of things, a faultless album, one that is full of hooks, singalong choruses, superb musicianship and wonderful, wonderful songs. The fact that it is appearing here instead of in those ‘list of albums you must own’ type features is proof positive that the music business is a cruel and fickle beast and that the cream does not automatically rise to the top.
Listen to this album now and improve your life.