Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds: La Araña Es La Vida
Kid Congo comes back with a record filled with hot lickin' and cool pickin'. It's rock 'n' roll through and through, and if it doesn't reinvent the album it'll certainly move you to catch a live show.
Kid Congo Powers ain’t had no humdrum life. A veteran of the Gun Club, the Cramps, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, he’s been rolling out records on the regular of late. If those releases don’t break a whole lot of new ground, they’re certainly fun and spark interest in his live shows. La Araña Es La Vida evokes images and emotions from inside the dankest of clubs. You can almost smell the spilled beer and feel the slippery puddles creeping from some long-leaking toilet as the beat goes on. In your mind’s eye there’s a young lady in a tattered leather jacket and tight black skirt with an equally tattered and tight Sisters of Mercy t-shirt on, twisting the night away as the band plays on.
It’s strange hearing Kid Congo in action now, a decade after his style was co-opted by cats who weren’t out of diapers when the Gun Club was on the rise. You’re being cast back and cast deeper into the past than perhaps you could possibly know. For those new to the program it’ll feel like the hot-burnt summer of 2005, when all those greaser bands came through town and had their tour vans stolen, then lit on fire in some faraway parking lot. Others will throw their ears back to Link Wray, the aforementioned Cramps, and maybe even Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
But let’s get back to the here and now, shall we? The guitars have that big, reverbed-out sound that makes you feel like you’re living in an early Jim Jarmusch movie. The drums are slippery and slide-y and boom in all the right places. You can breathe between the beats and rock your body in time even after ingesting some time-and-space-compromising substance. At least that’s the vibe apparent during the stomping “Nine Mile Blubber Pile”, a two-and-a-half-minute instrumental that encapsulates all that described above and more.
Meanwhile, “Karate Monkey” features some hot pickin’ and cool lickin’ that will get you all excited about getting your switchblade shined up. There’s an innocence-cum-looseness about it that reminds you that in the end, legendary reputation or no, this is rock ‘n’ roll. Leave it at that. “Chicano Studies”, “Coyote Conundrum”, and “Magic Machine” provide further proof of Kid Congo’s prowess and ability to keep us entertained even if the record’s plot hangs by the most tenuous of threads.
If that all seems like cliché, then so be it. Cliché can be as exhilarating and shocking as the new when placed right and played well. Kid Congo not only has the reputation to assure us that the music he delivers is first class, but he still has an apparent passion for these sounds after all this time. It seems, too, that the best way to experience this sound is in a live setting, standing in that poorly-lit room, clutching that overpriced drink and eyeing that darkly-clad somebody. Would Kid Congo have it any other way? One thinks not. And neither should you.