Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds - Philosophy and Underwear
Kid Congo's pedigree certainly seems sound enough; he has worked with the likes of The Cramps, Die Haut, Julee Cruise and Nick Cave. A cynical eye, of course, would look at such a list of names and get the impression that Kid Congo is, in fact, the sort of artist who spends his time hanging around on the fringes of the very coolest scenes, perhaps masking a lack of individual ability. On the basis of "Philosophy and Underwear", the new album from Kid Congo and his band the Pink Monkey Birds, that is, in fact, a fairly apt summation.
Which isn't to say that is is a dreadful album. There isn't one particular song that can be highlighted as painfully dire, but as a cohesive whole, one cannot escape a sense that a lack of ambition, or a lack of competency in execution, or, indeed, both, undermined this album from its inception. It has the air of an entire album of filler, missing the three or four killer tracks that are the difference, on so many, albums, between 'average' and 'brilliant'. Fleeting moments of genius on an album can blind even the most careful listener to mediocrity elsewhere, but here, average song follows average song, and the effect is somewhat mind-numbing. There are moments of promise, true, leaving the listener anxiously waiting for the next track, sure that it will be the one that lifts the album to an entirely different level, but such a track never comes.
There are other aspects that grate, too. I suspect that one either loves or hates Kid Congo's lethargic spoken vocals, and I think my opinion on the matter is fairly clear. Production too, seems weak and anaemic throughout, as if it's trying desperately to be a little dirty, a little edgy, but not quite, as with the songs themselves, making the grade. It's odd really, given how long Kid Congo Powers has been making music, that he has made an album like "Philosophy and Underwear". Which is not to say that longevity brings guaranteed quality, I refer more to the nature of the problems with this album. The overt pretentiousness, (the album title, songs titles like "Even Though Your Leather is Cliche" should be proof enough...) the aforementioned poor production and simple lack of even one show-stopping song to make the album more than the sum of its parts; these are the mistakes of a young band on their first or second album, not an old hand like Kid Congo Powers.
In short, "Philosophy and Underwear" is "Transformer" with all the charm and subtlety removed, leaving behind a collection of bland, if not disastrous lo-fi New York glam/electro songs. Kid Congo is politely advised to stick to hanging around with Nick Cave.