Rosetta Stone is one of those bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s that feels very much like that dear high school friend who comes for a visit, then takes over your life; but it doesn’t matter because you’ve missed them so much that you don’t mind them making a mess in the kitchen, leaving crumbs everywhere or compelling you to question why you lost contact. Even though frontman Porl King pulled the plug on the band in 1998, its spirit lived on in King’s bleak post-punk solo project – Miserylab – that he started in the same year.
Arriving in 2019, we receive ‘Feels Like Forever’; the album title requires no leap of thinking to figure out what King first thought when producing new material under the revered band’s name. Truth be told, the years have done little to dull his creative process and the album is a welcome revisit to something old with something new.
It must be said that almost all the tracks on this album are reworked Miserylab tracks, but they have been shifted away from the sparse coldwave to a more polished gloom rock beat with Rosetta Stone’s signature jangly guitar sound. Whereas Rosetta Stone’s earlier work revolved around intimately personal and esoteric lyrics, MiseryLab is decidedly political and caustically acerbic.
Explore King’s ‘self-deprecation’ at your own leisure – it features the stripped-down versions of the songs on the album, including the lead single of ‘Feels Like Forever’. It will give you a broader appreciation for his prodigious talents.
Another notable feature is how King’s voice has taken on a more graven timbre than what was heard in the band’s earlier output, which slots in neatly with the sardonic tone of several tracks. The quality of his vocals belies a wry understanding, and contributes to the sincerity of the lyrics and texture of the album.
Speaking of things that vocal chords do, King suffers from glossophobia – or speaking anxiety - and has previously stated that he does not enjoy travelling; you may now frown if you were hoping for tour dates – there are better odds of another Sisters of Mercy album cropping up next year.
And now for what you want to read…
The first catchy track is in the second slot: “Children of the Poor”. The song is biting in its message, not to mention catchy with a synth- and guitar-driven pace. The chorus has just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek that you can’t help singing along, ironically.
In fifth place is “Making a Bomb”, and after the keyboard-heavy intro, you’re treated to a steady beat of King’s crooning and a consistent bass line. The chorus is a simple, but infectious chant – you would be almost forgiven for humming along, but the dark crowd do not approve of such behaviours.
“Tomorrow For Us” is the lead single from the album and for good reason too: it’s as sarcastic as it is dreary, on top of being accessible. The accompanying music video is a self-interpretive treat of clangy tunes too.
‘Seems Like Forever’ is an unexpected, but engaging listen – you would be mistaken for thinking it is a nearly different creature, but it’s a wolf wearing another wolf’s skin. It’s a testament to the King’s indefatigable nature as an artist; this is without even mentioning he has a secret weapon in the form of Jürgen Engler of the venerable Die Krupps – so you know it will have likeable soundscapes.
The grinding guitars and layered-sound of the band’s former incarnation have been replaced with a cleaner production and tidier arrangement. Think the sonic talent of Angels of Liberty meets the vocal stylings of Drab Majesty minus the new wave tinge.
The lyrics of the album are much like Porl King himself: not minced and borderline straight-forward (as if the album’s title wasn’t clear enough at first glance).
The album is basically Miserylab wearing the skin of Rosetta Stone but surreal thing is, it doesn’t matter because the album is that good; the remixed tracks are a new path to travel on, instead of retreads on familiar wheels – The path remains the same but the scenery offers new distractions.
‘Seems Like Forever’ track listing:
Rosetta Stone are:
Guitar, bass, drums, programming, production – Porl King
Mixing – Jürgen Engler
Rosetta Stone online: