Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds
Watch and listen:
An alumnus of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds from the Class of 1986-1990, Kid Congo Powers can hardly be dubbed a Kid any more. Let alone overdubbed. Yet he's more vital to the garage rock scene than ever before and along with the Oblivians comeback, the swampy Haunted Head has to be my most hotly (and stickily) anticipated album of the year. His Dracula Boots album was recorded in an old school gymnasium taking him from Gun Club to the sports club and after some Gorilla Rose-induced physical Cramps he's now running a film club if the cover art, and track '222' is anything to go by, reminiscent as it is of George Melies 1902 sci-fi classic Trip To The Moon.
Kid Congo's often spoken word baritone lyrical lean is reminiscent of Allen Ginsberg in The Clash's 'Ghetto Defendant' and the Pink Monkey Birds musical style is drunk on New Orleans ju ju mixed in with Goat's Head Soup – with a sound that Goat's World Music has also sampled from copiously. It's a heady hooch from the top row of the saloon bar which may well also have been laced with Hofmeister lager if the lyric "follow the bear" in track 'Lurch' is to be taken literally (one for the 70s kids).
I could go-go all ramalala about the ding ding thing going on in here, and I could drone on about hallucinogen-fuelled parties or even go all Kerouac on your arse about Quaalude dropping in the dessert to describe the sound of this self-assured band. I could even blah blah blah on about its primal Iggy-esque sexiness, but that's all been said before. What you haven't heard is that this is a man with a GSOH. When he's at punky full pelt on 'I Don't Like' the Kid (as I haven't earned the right to call him) is more influenced by the pratfalls and visual poetry of the Three Stooges, barking at the moon as he does with tongue in cheek lyrics professing his distaste for "neocons in square back suits" and "throwing up in a dirty phone booth". And for unfathomably eccentric reasons he's decided it's so good he's played it twice in sequence on the album like a mid-set encore. There is a genuine Iggy connection too in the song 'Su Su', a paean to the late American actress Susan Tyrell who played Ramona Rickettes, niece of Iggy Pop's Belvedere character in the John Waters' classic Crybaby.
In the standout song 'Killer Diller' Kid Congo namechecks also recently departed comedian Phyllis Diller, whose shtick included a fictitious husband named Fang with Dracula-esque qualities which fits the Hammer Horrors style goth-schlock modus operandi of our singing hero.
And as it's now time for me to wrap it up, like Kid Congo's own Monkey Birds, this third album for LA's legendary In The Red Records has left me tickled pink.
Kid Congo Powers - Guitar, vocals
Kiki Solis - Bass
Ron Miller - Drums
Mark Cisneros - Guitar
Kid Congo Powers is the stage name of Brian Tristan, who was born March 27, 1959 in La Puente, California. Tristan spent his childhood growing up in a Mexican immigrant suburb of Los Angeles, soaking up whatever music was around, and by his young adulthood, he found himself squarely in the center of the L.A. punk scene, forming the Gun Club with Jeffrey Lee Pierce, eventually leaving the band in 1980 to play in the Cramps, returning to the Gun Club in 1984 while also playing guitar for Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. Well known as Kid Congo Powers by this point, he began to devote time to his own bands and projects, beginning with Congo Norvell and later the Pink Monkey Birds, developing a quirky, theatrical, almost anything-goes musical personality that made his music hard to pin down, full of punk, rockabilly, and surf influences, but always endlessly hip, unpredictable, and utterly fascinating.