Talk about misunderstood! The common myth about Teenage Fanclub’s 1991 mini-album The King is that it was an intentionally mediocre contractual obligation to Matador Records, an album of tossed-off songs and covers, that their label only printed up a thousand copies of, and that the album was deleted the day it was released.
That theory is largely false. While it is true that The King was deleted the day it was released, but it wasn’t a contractual obligation. It was recorded after Bandwagonesque was recorded but before that seminal album was released. Creation Records did not press up a mere thousand copies; they pressed up twenty thousand. Furthermore, Matador Records had not picked up the option to continue their contract–and besides, what good would it have done the band to turn this record in, considering Matador was a label who was then grooming Pavement for stardom, and who had owners who were from the New York noise scene?
It really isn’t fair to call the music a toss-off. While the album is certainly loose and the songs are definitely rough, that doesn’t mean that they’re bad. In fact, The King is a rather fun session. If anything, The King has a vibe that’s very similar to the Sonic Youth side project Ciccone Youth, with instrumental passages and covers. Fun moments include the jam “Mudhoney,” the intentionally short cover of Pink Floyd’s early epic jam session “Interstellar Overdrive,” and the noisy “Robot Love” and “Opal Inquest” find that these power-pop loving lads had a way with noise.
But The King‘s highlight has to be their rather straightforward cover of the original demo of Madonna‘s breakthrough hit, “Like A Virgin.” It would later be released as a b-side, and would come to develop its own reputation, and that’s why I’ve included it as the lead track.
Maybe The King was meant as a press manipulation, a joke that the world missed. Still, it’s a fun curiosity, one that doesn’t lose anything to its false reputation.