There’s a good reason why Taylor Kingman refers to his band’s music as “psychedelic doom boogie.” It’s the sort of kitchen sink label that pokes at the industry’s need for categorization. It’s also the only sort of descriptor that might come close to capturing the dynamism and sheer delight of listening to TK & The Holy Know-Nothings.
If you’re new to the Know-Nothings, just picture the best kind of bar band, a collective of seasoned players from Oregon who veer just a bit more vulnerable than vicious. After releasing their debut Arguably OK in 2019 and a three-song EP last year, the band’s sophomore album, The Incredible Heat Machine, leans into Kingman’s way with words and the band’s muscular influences.
The Incredible Heat Machine’s 11 tracks are tailor-made for the live setting, and it’s hard not to envision the band in full regalia delivering these songs to a rowdy yet receptive crowd. It’s a product of the band’s impressive chemistry and choice to record live at the OK Theatre in the small town of Enterprise, Oregon (the same stage on which the band recorded Arguably OK).
The album’s title track testifies to the band’s mix of raucous and righteous better than anything else. In a one-minute “preprise,” Kingman introduces the listener to the first verse of the actual song, sung as a lonely acoustic refrain. “My mother always knew what I would grow into / Now I’ve done some growing and I guess that I know, too / I’m a train, I was built to fade away / I will run where my tracks have been laid.”
From there, the ghosts of Tucker, Jennings, and Parsons take command with a barroom burner that accelerates with the sort of steam Kingman references in his lyrics. These searing up-tempo numbers show off the band’s ability to flex with the best — the exemplary guitar work, the harmonies, the synergy of it all working together so well.
Kingman isn’t afraid to get outright silly with the likes of “I Lost My Beer,” an ode to a misplaced beverage, but the real value here is in his willingness to bleed for the sake of his art. It’s the confession on “Hell of a Time” (“I’ve been killing angels having a helluva time”), the self-awareness on “Serenity Prayer” (“We’re on a 12-step program, one 2-step at a time”), and the searching on “She Wonders” (“And I wonder how I know that I won’t be growing old”).
In the end, we’re privy to at least a bit of Kingman’s process on the slow drag of “Just the Right Amount,” perhaps the album’s best track. Here, Kingman offers his perspective as frontman to the crowd when he sings, “Maybe one to get them crying / Maybe one to help them fight / You gotta do a little wrong, kid / To get that kind of right.” That sounds like The Incredible Heat Machine to me.