You know, I have zero freakin' excuses to offer up as to why I'm so late to the party with the most recent album from Kid Congo Powers and The Pink Monkey Birds. Called La Arana Es La Vida, it dropped on In The Red Records a few months ago and it's a stomper that expands the Kid Congo Powers sound, and that's a considerable bit of praise considering this guy's background: The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Congo Norvell, and on and on. Given my familiarity with those acts, as well as his appearances on stuff like the Die Haut project, I'm kinda embarrassed that I didn't get on-board with this one when it dropped. I have now, the record rocks, and I'm gonna tell you why ahead of next week's gig in D.C. at Comet Ping Pong.
La Arana Es La Vida offers up a new line-up of the Pink Monkey Birds with local harDCore Renaissance man Mark Cisneros on guitar this time out. The Medications/Deathfix musician brings some fiery licks to these compositions and he sounds like he's having a blast on stuff like "Coyote Conundrum", his axe offering crunchy hooks behind Kid's Mark E. Smith-like delivery. The scorching "Magic Machine" churns like some lost gem from a Nuggets comp. mixed with traces of the sort of Bad Seeds mayhem Powers unleashed on staples like "Deanna" from 1988's Tender Prey. The bass of Kiki Solis and drums of Ron Miller anchor the downright evil "Ricky Ticky Tocky" which purrs with coiled menace. The wonderfully-titled "Karate Monkey" segues nicely into the title cut which is all Os Mutantes weirdness wrapped around an oddly lovely melody. If "Psychic Future" and "Coyote Conundrum", both dirty rockers, do indeed hark back to Powers' years in Nick Cave's group, the twang-y "Chicano Studies" puts an armful of sounds from the West Coast of this country in the service of something that bubbles and swirls behind Kid's Wolfman Jack-style vocal delivery.
Given that La Arana Es La Vida offers up familiar Kid Congo Powers pleasures, it's a must purchase for any fan of this cat, or the bands he contributed to over the last few decades. For newer fans, it's a fiery sampling of the sort of garage funk-punk that the Pink Monkey Birds can work up so easily. For folks in D.C., fans of the Dischord legacy, it offers up a chance to hear a local whiz-kid branch out and explore the sounds of multiple genres outside of a lot of those that gained favor in this city. Cisneros' brings a loose-yet-precise set of guitar moves to this one and this record is, probably, gonna be seen in hindsight as a new chapter in the Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds' story thanks in part to the addition of the Deathfix musician.
Speaking of this fine city, Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds will be rocking our own Comet Ping Pong next Tuesday, September 27. My fellow D.C. music scene aficionados will want to catch this gig for another reason: Ian Svenonius (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Chain and the Gang) will be DJ-ing as only he can as Escape-ism.
[Photo: The band's Facebook page, uncredited]