“We’re not punk, we’re not indie, we’re not Brit pop”: The K’s Debut With a Raucous Rock Fusion on ‘I Wonder If The World Knows?’

I Wonder If The World Knows? - The K's
I Wonder If The World Knows? - The K's

Christine's Take

9 Music Quality
7 Sonic Diversity
9 Content Originality
9 Lyricism
10 Memorability
9 Arrangement
8 Production
Look between J and L on your keyboard:
It’s seven years since British rockers The K’s released their debut single, but the Earlestown-bred four-piece have been “grafting” and deliver with ‘I Wonder If The World Knows?’ – an eighteen-track debut album worthy of festival main stages.
Stream: ‘I Wonder If The World Knows?’ – The K’s

As soon as you hear us, you know it’s us. We have got our own sound.

If you listen to a lot of British indie and modern rock, you might run up against the problem of stuff beginning to sound the same.

There are only so many fuzz boxes and Bigsbys that can get you new sounds (and don’t pass into metal on one end and electronica on the other). Guitar rock might not be dead, but surely it’s past its prime, right?

Not so for the good ones, and The K’s are among the good ones.

The K's
The K’s © 2024

Formed in 2017, the quartet hails from the midpoint between Manchester and Liverpool and consists of Jamie Boyle on vocals and guitar, Dexter Baker on lead guitar, Ryan Breslin on bass, and Jordan Holden on drums. They’re an emo-indie-punk-glam-classic rock fusion – but according to Boyle: “We’re not punk, we’re not indie, we’re not like Brit Pop or anything… It’s a proper cliché thing to say, but as soon as you hear us, you know it’s us. We have got our own sound.”

Their debut album, I Wonder If The World Knows? (released 5 April 2024 via LAB Records), comes seven years on from their first hit, “Sarajevo,” which launched them to fame for their impassioned live shows, the sweaty, drunken arms-around-your-mates kind. The album’s deluxe version is an 18-song ride that rings with energy, both from its many frenzied, lyrically-dense bangers and its introspective piano ballads.

I Wonder If The World Knows? - The K's
I Wonder If The World Knows? – The K’s

On opening track “Icarus” we’re ushered into The K’s world with a string orchestration leading to an emo riff straight from the early aughts. Boyle’s delivery rings of hardcore punk and his voice impresses from the get-go, even when he sing-talks through the many quick lyrics woven throughout the album. Already the tension is rising, and we’re walloped with description of the speaker’s mental state drawn from a crushing dismissal by a parental figure:

I’m like midnight, mid-flight
Cotton mouth and wide eyed
Alright, face white, need a minute outside
Oh, ’cause I don’t feel so alright…
They say, “Son, you’re a f*ing disgrace
Can’t believe it’s my blood in your veins
I don’t know who you are
You’re not the boy that I raised.”

So it’s no wonder the speaker’s covered in armor on “Heart On My Sleeve,” a pop-punk track with a nice melodic guitar riff under the final verse. “Chancer” takes us into the Mancunian vernacular so present both in the album’s lyrics and in Boyle’s accent, a welcome authenticity of British regional lilts that have gained steam in their music scene in the last decade. Perhaps the rhyming characters of a chancer and his dancer could be a little less literal, but one can’t help but laugh with lyrics like these:

We can slip away
We’ll find a place
Where I won’t have to pay
For your agility and flexibility

The ballad “Lights Go Down” is the album’s token song about gigging life, with a simple and elegant summary of dealing with newfound fame while keeping connected to loved ones.

Everybody wants to know me now
To know me like, know me like you
But in the morning, when the lights go down
You’ll always show me just how wеll you do

We get a bit of bluesy rock on “Hometown,” which sounds like classic Black Crowes, and for better or worse, “Hoping Maybe” can’t not draw direct comparisons to “Wonderwall.” “No Place Like Home,” which gives definite Arctic Monkeys, deftly explores growing up and walking the delicate tightrope between responsibility and toxic small-town alcoholic ways.

A dark horse track emerges in “Black and Blue,” which more than any other song sounds like a pull-out-the-stops festival banger – yet the sinister story of a “scary,” “lairy” boyfriend leaves us wondering if his jealous streak leaves the singer or his girlfriend bruised and battered. It takes skill to write a song that works on a dance floor, but if you listen too closely, could leave you in tears.

The songwriting varies from good to very good throughout I Wonder If The World Knows?, covering familiar small-town, working-class territory with a few surprises.

You get the feeling the band itself are tickled that they wrote the line “And I’m looking to expand, oh, I’m so Austro-Hungarian, but it’s not in my plans to be your next Franz” on their keystone anthem “Sarajevo.” And you might roll your eyes, but you’re grinning while you do it, because there are other, better, more subtle metaphors thrown in as well. “Glass Town” references the dominant industry in the band’s home region, but the under-three-minute guitar-driven track also nods to the precariousness of working-class life.

I close my eyes and I’m hearing sirens
It’s in my head but I hear it all the same
I run away from our little glass towns
I run away ‘cos I can’t take the pain
The K's © 2024
The K’s © 2024

I Wonder If The World Knows? shows some range with punk ragers and the occasional piano ballad, but this reviewer would like to see more of the in-between: Can The K’s write good mid-tempo songs? Their Scots brethren The Snuts do this variety very well – their song “Circles” might be a good place for The K’s to take inspiration (even though they, too, have a song called “Circles”).

On the alternative version of “Icarus,” the swelling introduction by poet Tony Walsh beats the refrain “Some bands” as a fitting summary of The K’s probable trajectory. And it’s with wry humor that Walsh introduces what might be the next big Mancunian-Liverpudlian rock group.

Some bands can tell a story to unite and energize
And when some bands sing their glory
just brings teardrops to our eyes

Some bands can stand together as a band but stand apart
Some bands will live forever in our broken, hopeful hearts
Most bands would give their all for this,
few bands can just amaze

One band has just got all of this:
That band is t
he f**in’ K’s.

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:: stream/purchase I Wonder If the World Knows? here ::
:: connect with The K’s here ::

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I Wonder If The World Knows? - The K's

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