The King is back. After what felt like a painfully long time to his devotees, TJ Cowgill—better known as King Dude—is poised to release a new full-length album, having already graced us with multiple collaborations (like the one he released with Julee Cruise) and a split with German ambient spiritualists Dolch since his last proper LP. I first heard about its existence months ago, when I ran into him and his partner in Reykjavik, and remember in particular the devilish way his lips curled when he told me, "It's called Sex." Somehow, I wasn't surprised; there's a reason Noisey refers to Cowgill as "our favorite whiskey-soaked Luciferian sex god."
Sex beckons the listener close, starting out slow and gentle, almost teasing. Cowgill's Luciferian faith bleeds through but doesn't take center stage the way it did on the album's predecessor, 2015's Songs of Flesh & Blood - In the Key of Light. He still mixes the sacred with the profane with diabolical grace, as we see on the intoxicating album opener (and my favorite track), "Holy Christos," but here, the album does what it says on the tin; it's undoubtedly about a lot of things (things that Cowgill could explain far better than I), but ultimately, as songs like the moody, gothic "Who Taught You How to Love" make clear, Sex is about making love—and sometimes about fucking.
The aforementioned tune sees Cowgill haul out his best Type O Negative vibes, then immediately stride into the dusty spaghetti Western dirge "I Wanna Die at 69," replete with his inimitable throaty growl. A sweet neofolk love ballad like "Our Love Will Carry On" sticks out like a sore thumb on this decidedly eclectic mix of songs; Sex sees Cowgill genre-hop from his trademark dusky neofolk, to blues, country, post-punk, electronic, rock 'n' roll, and, obviously, tons of goth rock. The latter half of the album is where he really lets his freak flag fly, though, and things really start heating up after the instrumental interlude, "Conflict & Climax."
After vamping his way through a slinky "The Leather One," King Dude amps up the amplification on honest-to-god bangers like the unexpectedly toothy "Sex Dungeon USA," a sleazy, ragged-voiced rock 'n' roll tune that wouldn't feel out of place on a Midnight record, "and the sexed-up proto-punk swagger of"Swedish Boys." The rhythmic post-punk verve on "Prisoners" complements its ghostly dual vocal approach, then "The Girls" goes full surrealist, a King Dude-does-the-Beatles curveball complete with a studio audience, weirdly distorted vocals, and jingly percussion. For the finale, Cowgill loops back into more reassuringly familiar territory, warbling through "Shine Your Light," a subdued broken-heart ballad-cum-sinner's lament.
The album will be available on various formats and in multiple variations from King Dude's own Not Just Religious Music and Europe's Ván Records come October 28. Let him teach you how to love again—and beloveds, I promise you, it'll have been worth the wait.
Photos by Angel Ceballos.
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