The name King Tuff functions as shorthand for the music itself: It's an air of nobility clad in well-worn denim. In other words, it's rock 'n' roll performed as though it's the only thing in the world that matters.
Kyle Thomas is the titular King Tuff, a Vermont longhair whose past musical projects have spanned stoner metal and rowdy folk. His first album for Sub Pop is a 40-minute romp of catchy guitar rock that skirts '60s retro, garage revival and bursts of power pop.
Though it's the calmest track on King Tuff, starting with just an acoustic guitar, "Baby Just Break" holds the key themes. It's about freeing yourself from dead ends, busting loose and not giving a shit. Thomas plays the role of friendly sage, with the tempting advice to just do the wrong things.
Though a bit of regret for all that trouble-making shows up on "Bad Thing"—"When I play my Stratocaster, I feel like an innocent kid / But when I'm looking in the mirror, I remember all the bad things I did"—Thomas still makes it all sound fun.
Other standouts are the sneering "Alone and Stoned," the skewed boogie-blues of "Stranger" and the hand-claps and sing-along chorus of "Hit and Run."
King Tuff knows how to make loud music from hooks, adrenaline, beer, joyous abandon and high levels of sunglass-slacker-cool. Enjoy it with the same.