Rhythm & Views

Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds

Kid Congo Powers has always had a knack for being at the right place at the right time. As a founding member of the Gun Club, through long stints with The Cramps and Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, and through a series of terrific other acts (Knoxville Girls, Die Haut, Congo Norvell, etc.), the Kid has always brought his streetwise panache, gritty guitar and great hair. With Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds, he tries something different: being the frontman.

Kid takes on lead vocal duties, and his Birds (including Knoxville Girls guitar player Jack Martin, with whom he shares songwriting credits) drop 12 tracks of trashy, low-art, effects-tweaked R&B. The Kid comes from the Andre Williams school of sassy talk-singing, and although he'll never be mistaken for any of the greats he's played with over the years, he seems to be having a great time.

In fact, the whole thing seems like a lark: Powers delivers stream-of-consciousness lyrics and stinging guitar with a cheerful sneer while the band vamps and humps behind him. Being downtown New York cats, of course, there's plenty of noisy, squirrelly bits (mainly courtesy of electronics guy Jorge Velez) and jagged rhythms. "Even Though Your Leather Is Cliché" is sort of the quintessential track: The guitars and bass collide with each other and smack into the pounding drums that are trying to avoid some dangerous electronics while Kid piles non sequiturs on top of each other, and it all threatens to fall apart, but somehow doesn't. It's a pretty glorious mess.

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