Buffalo Gang (label)
17 April 2020 (released)
19 April 2020
His recorded output to date indicates that for London native King Charles (a.k.a. Charles Costa), the last decade was - at best - a mixed bag. Debut album 'LoveBlood' (2012) was packed full of vivacious folk-pop songs seemingly tailor-made for what must have been raucous, celebratory live shows; however, by 2016's 'Gamble For A Rose' he'd settled into a more sedate, reflective mode along the lines of what Mumford And Sons (his friends and former collaborators) were doing at the time. And now? Well, for a start, check out that title.
Charles wrote much of 'Out Of My Mind' on a mini synth whilst in hospital, and it often sounds like the work of a man who's had time (and perhaps too much of it) to contemplate the darker aspects of life. "We don't care too much for living/Baby, let us rest in peace" he sings in a plaintive falsetto, over a sparse piano and bass backing, on the opening 'Freak'. It's vastly different to anything Charles has done before, lyrically and sonically.
There are several other forays into funk, soul and electronica territory here; the King channeling his inner Prince, if you must. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it sounds great. 'Deeper Love' is propelled along by some supremely groovy bass and a R&B beat that defies you not to dance, and on 'New York Sunrise', he really lets that falsetto soar over some quality bleary-eyed soul.
Unfortunately, among the weaker moments, it's hard to overlook the colossal misstep of the trap-flavoured 'Money Is God', with Charles' unconvincing attempts at semi-rapped vocals leading into a cringeworthy chorus bereft of any subtlety. He's clearly trying to satirise the lyrical fascination with wealth that has long characterised much of mainstream hip hop, but it's hard to take the message seriously when it's delivered this clumsily.
There are also a few echoes of the King Charles of old. 'Melancholy Julie', possibly an ode to one that got away, is a pleasant enough synth-enhanced update of his 'Gamble For A Rose' sound, whilst 'Watchman' is a forgettable indie rock ballad that is only slightly enlivened by a burst of distorted guitar action towards the end. The closing semi-acoustic shuffle of 'Feel These Heavy Times' serves up a few interesting turns of phrase ("What is this feminism?/Can't we all just worship women?") but ultimately makes for a somewhat flat finale.
Credit is due to King Charles for avoiding the easy route of rehashing his past glories, but whilst 'Out Of My Mind' is a bold attempt at self-reinvention, the end result is a few gems scattered across a disjointed and often unconvincing record.