"I know what I like / and I know what I want/ and I know what it looks like," growls Andre Williams on "Mercy Mama", his contribution to Khan's all-star cooperative effort, No Comprendo. "It all look the same / so open them up and give it to me!" Um, yeah. It does all look the same on this monochromatically red light record -- reminding us that although sex sells, it may not always entertain.
After countless European singles, genres, and pseudonyms Khan established his stateside reputation with 1999’s Matador debut 1-900-GET-KHAN. It featured a real live phone sex line and the cover sported real paid ads from real male hustlers. His live shows often involved the darkly handsome Khan stripping down to his skivvies, and hurling obscenities at those audience members too uptight to do the same. Of course, when people like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Guns N’ Roses do stuff like that they get arrested for indecent exposure, but if you’re a slender, exotically-descended European DJ and producer—Khan, nee Can Oral, was raised in Germany but his parents are a Turk and a Finn—it’s considered an outrageous statement about the artist as whore.
On this album Khan has moved up in the world—no longer the hustler, he’s now the pimp, enlisting such luminaries as David Lynch creep-diva Julee Cruise, ex-Pussy Galore frontman and Blues Explosion catalyst Jon Spencer, and Atari Teenage Riot’s Hanin Elias to turn his tricks. This is not so much a collaboration as a cooperative, in which each vocalist wrote lyrics and vocal lines to match Khan’s sounds. You would think that such a wide range of contributors would make for a highly variable record, but the truth is that Khan’s style and sound are so monolithic on this album that they overpower everyone involved. More than half of the songs remind this reviewer of James Bond theme music, or something like Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”—a sort of driving sleaze and bassline menace.
The lyrics are predictably lewd, sometimes amusingly so. Francoise Cactus of France’s Stereo Total complains in sultry French about someone who wants to be her groß Daddy and who has a taste for what must only translate as “big titties”. “I’m flat”, she dead-pans as the Bond-esque guitar thrusts beneath her, “I’m flat and you bore me”. One of Spencer’s two contributions, “Fishies Fuck”, is also a howler, as he celebrates the underwater birds and bees in his alternately growling and crooning voice.
The only break comes with tracks five and six, “Say Hello” and “Say Goodbye”, appropriately enough, sung by Lenni Schipp and Julee Cruise, respectively. The first features a light bossonova sort of lounge sound, complete with lovely piano solo and segueing into a torch song about the “jealousy of fate”. On “Say Goodbye” Cruise lends her haunting soprano to Moorish-style caterwauling, as though calling the deviant to prayer from a minaret of pulsing bass.
It’s not much time to catch your breath before Khan starts pushing your head back into his crotch. “I don’t care what the neighbors think,” sings Spencer in his best “Smutty Elvis” impersonation, “I’m gonna keep on fucking, baby.” Whatever, man, suit yourself—but don’t expect us to pay good money for it.
// Notes from the Road
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