King Tuff “Smalltown Stardust”

Sub Pop, 2023

Album number six sees a change in direction to a smoother and more multi-layered sound.

Artwork for King Tuff album “Smalltown Stardust”.For his sixth album, King Tuff, otherwise known as Kyle Thomas, ditches his garage rock roots to make a smoother-sounding album. He’s been aided and abetted by his housemate and multi-instrumentalist, Sasami Ashworth, who not only added back vocals, strings and keyboards to many of the songs, but also contributed to the writing and production of the record.

The album starts with ‘Love Letter To Plants’ with Ashworth’s multi-tracked vocals complementing Thomas’s. With an early 1970’s soft rock feel, this song sets the scene for most of the album. ‘Portrait Of God’ is one of the few upbeat numbers and forms the centrepiece of the album. It muses on what form God could actually take. You could almost imagine this song having been written in 1969 by a band such as The Small Faces.

Before recording the album, Thomas was apparently floundering for meaning. He turned to his love of nature for inspiration. The acoustic ‘Peddles In A Stream’ highlights this; it’s a gentle song, with some great strings using the natural environment to explain a relationship, ‘We go together naturally, Just like peddles in a stream’. ‘Tell Me’ has a Fleetwood Mac vibe and is followed by ‘Rock River’, which reminisces about Thomas’s childhood and nature. It’s one of the more rocky songs and chugs along nicely.

The Bandits Of Blue Sky’ has multiple layers of orchestration, synths and vocals. It’s got a slightly psychedelic feel to it, it could have sounded over the top but it works well, with a great swooping bass sound. ‘The Wheel’ brings the album to a close, with Thomas looking for answers that he’ll never find.  This album marks a change in direction for King Tuff and, although in places it might be a tad saccharine for some people’s tastes, it’s certainly a path which is well worth following in the future.


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