Review by Ryan Leach
Throughout the middle and late '90s, King Loser remained one of New Zealand's best bands. The group had a heavy lineup—You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live (1996) features Chris Heazlewood on guitar (formerly of Olla) and firecracker Celia Mancini on bass and electric organ (occasional singer for Christchurch's legendary The Axel Grinders). After going through a dozen drummers, the group found its man in Tribal Thunder.
It's important to contextualize the state of popular music during King Loser's time: grunge still ruled the airwaves and Flying Nun, with the exception of Lesley Paris' signings, was in spotty shape. King Loser seemingly didn't notice, picking up on some of the same surf and garage-rock influences Crypt and Estrus Records bands were pulling from.
You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live was recorded over a couple of years. The fidelity of the tracks bears witness to this, oscillating between 4 and 16 track recorders. The band shines with their surf instrumentals; "'76 Comeback" was worthy of an awesome, B-movie music video and their reworking of Dick Dale's "Misirlou" is exceptional. Yet another highlight is their Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra-inspired reworking of the Bonnie Dobson song "Morning Dew".
Ultimately, You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live is (at least in my mind's eye) a true Flying Nun release, from a time where the label seemed to have lost some of its identity, with radio-friendly bands and clean productions. King Loser recorded their music the way they wanted to; fidelity was secondary to spontaneity and creativity. That spirit and ethos comes through on this record.
You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live is an amazing effort and a testament to what erudite misfits can create if given the opportunity.