This one’s been a long time in coming – a very long time. A long time in the ‘I’ve moved house twice and have had a child who’s now nearly seven since I first heard The Kut’ kind of long time. But yes, The Kut’s debut album is finally here.
Because of the time spent building the material, and, in some respects, the piecemeal approach to releasing material – in a stop/start fashion over the course of a series of singles and EPs – their discography feels a tad bitty. But more importantly, they’ve had time to really shape their sound and the songs. And while a good number of the songs on ‘Valley of Thorns’ have featured on previous releases, they certainly represent the strongest of the songs from those release. Meanwhile, almost half of the album is being presented for the first time here.
It’s a nicely balanced collection that showcases all aspects of the things The Kut do so very well – primarily riffy tunes of a grungy punk persuasion bursting with hooks. The Hole / L7 comparisons have been made ad infinitum, but they’re entirely apt. I’d throw in underrated Geffen grunge signees Nymphs into the mix, too: The Kut offer similarly soaring melodies over chunky guitars steered by weaving leads and the kind f guitar breaks that are more 80s rock than grunge.
Opener ‘Mind Games’ has heavy gothic overtones, and melds the twisty guitars to a killer chorus that lands at a slower tempo. It’s a fine introduction to the band for those yet to become acquainted – and one can’t help but feel that with the impetus of a new distribution deal and a slew of festival dates booked for the summer, for many, it coud well be.
‘Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Roll’ is punchier grittier, pokier and a more straight ahead punk tune that finds Princess Maha coming on like Courtney Love,and elsewhere, ‘X-Ray Eyes’ switches between a fairly standard rock verse and a ripping punk chorus. The full-throttle drive contrasts with the mode sedate and introspective ‘No Trace’ which also sits at the poppier end of their songwriting spectrum. Although when I say ‘their’, I mean ‘her’: although a trio both live and in the studio (albeit with a revolving door drum stool position), The Kut is very much Princess Maha’s baby – and naturally, she’s the band’s focal point.
The song that really broke them and scored awards and exposure galore, ‘I Want You Maniac’, remains a clear standout. It harks back to a more 80s rock sound, but with a snaking groove and harmonised chorus.
‘Bad Man’, which originally surfaced in 2015 on the ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ EP and reprised as a radio edit on their eponymous Record Store Day EP last year brings all the rage, a full-on howling grunger that abandons all niceties and ditches the melody as Maha howls ‘fuck off!’ repeatedly into a crunching mess of guitar riffage and loping drums. Said riffage is a gritty three-chord stomp that’s not a million miles from ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ (or Slaughter and the Dogs’ ‘Panic in New York’ or various other variations on the theme). There are too many bad men in the world, and this is pure catharsis.
There isn’t a weak track here. Not that we ever expected any different: having watched The Kut grow, the chances of delivering a dud was slim to nil – but with ‘Valley of Thorns’, The Kut have finally arrived.