Auto erotica is most commonly understood as self-satisfying sexual arousal – it’s all about getting your jollies without anyone else interfering. For The Kingdom’s K1, however, the phrase suggests something much more interesting: the metaphorical mixing of modes of transportation with sexual identity. Could “auto erotica” really imply that American culture’s erotic preoccupation with planes, trains, and automobiles is a more explicit vehicle for sexual representation than the embattled denizens of sexual politics? In other words, could it be that the glossy TV ads during Monday Night Football for some new GM truck are, outright, more of an overt sexual statement than a manifesto from any Gay/Bi/Transsexual/Curious group? Sometimes, it seems, the power of metaphor is more explicit than an outright statement of fact.

Charles Westmoreland, the bizarre pop writer behind the driving anthems of The Kingdom, is, no doubt, a died-in-the-wool supporter of this understanding of the power of metaphor. The Kingdom’s first EP, Unitas, envisioned a mythical Johnnie Unitas meting out justice in the heavens through songs with Edith Hamilton-approved titles like “I Am Constellation” and “Arcadia of My Youth”. The lo-fi production of the EP and the Stereolab-esque backing vocals of keyboardist Jenna Roadman give a surreal quality to the record which is only topped by Westmoreland’s own delivery. Gritty, whiney, and over-the-top are just three of countless ways to describe Westmoreland’s vocal proclivities, and each is accurate in its own right. One thing is for sure - his voice is immediately memorable and, while not all listeners will want to curl up with it on a cold night, they will undoubtedly want to explore its implications further.



This curiosity definitely transfers into the sexual vehicular obsession that guides the songwriting on K1 (Arena Rock Recording Company). Billed simultaneously as a concept record about a race from Albany, NY to JFK Airport with varied modes of transport and a meditation on a sex change a la Dog Day Afternoon, Westmoreland’s metaphorical claims are indeed a tall order. Good thing the short and sweet pop tunes of K1 meet the challenge. With only one song clocking in at above the three minute mark (“Motorcycling” ends at 3:10), Westmoreland conveys his rich ramblings on all 11 tracks of the record in 25 minutes. With just this info, most would judge K1 to be a punk record. While both “Love is My Nation” and “Die All Over Me” offer pounding drums and big distorted guitars, they are hardly the majority. Heavy on keyboard aesthetics, either in piano or synth form, K1 revolves more around a handful of reappearing melodies that mix with various string arrangements and roomy drums to give a very unique listening experience.

The dramatic changes in musical tone dovetail nicely with the ever-changing lyrical content. Opener “Driver” begins with soft acoustic jangle and builds to include strings and driving drums, setting the stage for the epic journey to come and hinting at the change that will take place: “There was one flag in the morning/And there are four when you get home.” On “Polaris”, Westmoreland sings “Your leather snowmobile jacket fits like a dream” in the most compelling way possible while piano chords recall late 70s Billy Joel. Back to back “Motorcading” and “Motorcycling” shift the perspective from car to motorcycle and, respectively, from guitar driven to string driven. Introspective “Racer” draws on the melody from “Driver” and acts as the centerpiece for the massive change that the narrator is undergoing: “Tell my Baby, cause she ain’t ever seen me.” The sexual explicitness in both its title and lyrical content gives “Die All Over Me” the honor of being the most straightforward moment on the record, while “All I See Is the Sun” recalls a friendly jaunt on the beach or, in Westmoreland’s words, “out in the sea remembering hydrofoiling.” By closer “Pilot”, the musical accompaniment has dropped out in favor of echoing, choral vocals that inform the listener that the journey of vehicular and sexual change has finished and that “the Kingdom Pilot” can be identified “walking down the concourse with my helmet stained with stars.” Either way you look at it, as a performative story of sexual change or a sexual story of automotive racing, K1 never fails to stimulate.




All opinions expressed by Brandon Forbes are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.

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