Whilst frontman Theo Polyzoides admitted to being “such a loser in secondary school”, there must have been some concealed and opaque potential which was discovered by his English teacher at college. This potential evidently soared to the surface almost immediately. By seventeen, Polyzoides, and his London based band were signed to Dirty Hit (the label behind The 1975, Wolf Alice and Superfood). The only problem King Nun now faced was: how does one play gigs in over eighteen venues when one isn’t yet eighteen?
Opening with “Mascara Runs”, Polyzoides vocally sounds much like a young Brian Molko (Placebo) reworking Bloc Party’s Helicopter. This opener may be less than two and a half minutes, nonetheless, the production is elaborate with subtle old school computer game noises. The subject matter has depth. “Look me in the eyes, my mascara runs. “I wipe it off my face, but I’m still bleeding blood… I’m waking up in makeup. And I can’t remember if I put it on?” condenses a lot of the mental health issues and anxieties young people increasingly face.
“Chinese Medicine” moderately mellows its angst musically, but not its energy and lyrically punches above its weight. “Keep us beautiful, happy, and alive. Keep my head-on. Thank God, thank love. Thank Chinese medicine for that.” “Transformer” is equally laconically philosophical. “I’ll be running the line until I get old” and “Yeah, I made a mess, but I’m not fussed. So patronise the little sense that’s in my mind” expresses the feelings more people are feeling that they would struggle to articulate even if they had a thousand-word limit. “Cowboy” continues with brilliant guitar-led angst with subtle hints of funk.
The musical direction changes with “I Saw Blue” with more mellow, tranquil and MOR moments and more defined synth keys. At the same time, the key and volume changes are much more sudden and unexpected. There is also the introduction of background harmonies of “Ah-ah-ah-ah”. “Issues of insecurity are also addressed across the lyrics. “Fuck integrity, I know having you is better than having me”. Up to this point, Mass, despite the often disconcerting subject matter has had to an extent a melodic soundtrack to it. This changes on “Black Tree” as a darker, haunting sound rises to the centerfold. “Black Tree”, the most musically mature song off Mass, like the preceding tracks, deals with important and often unaddressed subject matters.
“Low Flying Dandelion” changes direction musically with Talking Heads and post-Berlin Bowie influences. Lyrically, the month of October is discussed with quirky and compelling lyrics, particularly the playout lyrics: “Call it flower power, Texas chainsaw mascara”. Taking no breath, “Low Flying Dandelion” leads into “Sharing a Head with Seth” which is the most disturbing lyrically but also has some hilarious comedic moments too. It’s contradictory too. Musically “Sharing a Head with Seth” is not especially musically heavy compared to songs like “Mascara Runs” and “Chinese Medicine”; it is almost folk with troubadour enchantment. “Intravenous” follows with instantly catchy melodies and innovative with direct plays on words such as “Magnetic morale, cake mix know-how”. The pre-chorus lyrically impresses too with “Up-trump the funny, up-trump the man. Up-trump the monkey in my right hand”. “Intravenous” is the only song where we hear guitar solos.
Mass plays out with “A Giant Came Down”, a song that is the antithesis of the ten preceding tracks on this debut LP. “A Giant Came Down” is also the most melodic and removed from King Nun’s punk origins. King Nun truly demonstrates that they will not be pigeonholed. Unconscious influences from MGMT, Cajun Dance Party to The Raconteurs can be heard here. “A Giant Came Down” does not conclude Mass in the manner one would expect an LP to conclude. It almost feels that it was cut short but also with the feeling that Mass was merely part one and that there is more to come that will lead King Nun’s musical journey and listener experience in a different direction.
Mass is undeniably an album for the youth, but it can also be appreciated by elders, providing them an opportunity to connect with the way the youth interacts with music and their experiences which leads to the lyrical and musical interpretations of King Nun. Despite many of the songs lasting less than three mins and none of the songs exceeding four minutes. No time is wasted. So much is covered and explored across eleven tracks.