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Albums Of The Week: Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds | That Delicious Vice

Venturing from the streets of L.A. to the Arizona desert and the Mexican border, the MVP garage-punk singer-guitarist's latest outing is a personal & musical travelogue.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “It’s a new lineup,” landlord of the avant-garage Kid Congo Powers exclaims of The Pink Monkey Birds  responsible for That Delicious Vice, the fifth studio full-length of their 19-year recording career.

“We’ve gone from a four piece to a three piece,” continues Kid, whose unique guitar style has been at the center of some of the most forward-thinking bands in punk and garage: The Gun Club, The Cramps, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds and Knoxville Girls, to name a few. “Because Mark Cisneros (ex-The Make Up) is playing guitar, sometimes we have songs with two guitars. And then sometimes, he plays bass on a bass six (an electric bass version of the mariachi bajo sexto). So, that is a new development. We lost a member and decided to try to do it as a three piece — more space, you know?

“I’m not sure if living in the desert is making me want more space in music or not,” laughs Kid, a Tucson resident for a few years now. “Maybe I’m turning into a desert stoner rocker. But I’m not a stoner, so that’s not happening.”

No indeed. The former Brian Tristan has most decidedly not unleashed a Kyuss tribute album. But you can hear the desert all over That Delicious Vice, beginning with opening instrumental East Of East, which has Duane Eddy / Rowland S. Howard guitar twanging through some malicious reverb. You feel it in the slide guitar-drenched theme from an imaginary western, Silver For My Sister, which echoes The Gun Club, the pioneering L.A. blues punk band Kid formed with Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Then there’s the acid-garage cumbia title Ese Vicio Delicioso. As he tells the tale of his musical journey over the Pink Monkey Birds’ cowbell-thumping Latinate rhythms, Kid’s thickly distorted guitar groans and screams with feedback, likely a conscious sonic homage to Jimi Hendrix, namechecked in the lyrics.

“Mark came up with some great Spanish guitar things,” Kid enthuses. “We were working with cinematic sound a lot — creating a mood, creating a picture and creating a feeling. We actually like to expand, spread our wings each time a little more and not do the same old thing, and not just be the thinking man’s garage-rock band.”

Photo by Luz Gallardo.

But the album’s major hallmark has to be its extended collaboration with Alice Bag, the face of and voice of early L.A. punk titans The Bags. How and why these two took this long to unite creatively is a dense mystery, considering both graduated with honors from early Hollywood punk palace The Masque, and their photos had to have stared at one another from opposite pages of a few issues of Slash or fLiPSiDe. “Yeah, we were around that ground zero, that tight circle of friends,” chuckles Kid. “But there was a lot of cliquiness going on, even though the scene was so small. Everyone knew each other, but I was more with The Screamers and she was more with The Bags and the punk thing. You know, I was more arty farty!”

“We go back a long time,” enthuses Alice. “When I was doing my book tour, Kid called me and I hadn’t heard from him in ages! And he’s like, ‘You’re coming to D.C.! If you need me for anything, I’m gonna make some noise with you — I’m in!’ It always amazes me how deep those early friendships go. You can not speak to somebody for years and years, but if you have punk rock in common, you’re my sister or brother forever. So he came out and he played with me at one of my early readings in D.C. And then, every now and then I’d see Pink Monkey Birds, but just randomly. Because he was living on the East Coast and I was living on the West Coast, we didn’t see each other very often and fell out of touch again.”

Now they’re In The Red labelmates, thanks to Alice’s third solo LP Sister Dynamite. Following that, the producers of the TV comedy The Resort reached out to inquire if either Kid or Alice would be interested in composing a Spanish-language song for the show. “It was actually Alice who said, ‘Well, why don’t you just get us together and we’ll do it?’ ” says Kid. “And they went for it. So we wrote a cheesy lounge act song, which is of course much better than any cheesy lounge act.”

“We recorded it,” adds Alice. “Then we did these cameos on this show, playing our song. They flew us out to Puerto Rico for a few days. It was just a really fun experience. It’s really fun getting to hang out with Kid, and the process of writing a song with him was very enjoyable, even though I was living in Mexico City and he was in Tucson by then — we were still working remotely. But we just clicked. I’d send him a recording, and then he’d add to it. and send something back. We both were very open to each person’s own brand of quirkiness.”

Photo by Luz Gallardo.

This led to Wicked World, a full-on duet  and album highlight. Over rat-a-tat Big Bad John drums, a blast of fuzz bass, and Kid’s siren-like slide guitar, the co-composers recount in tandem the tale of a child “born into trouble from a devil seed / Every fork in the road led her here.” It’s a short drive from there through a poor childhood and bad decisions to turning tricks and seeking kicks, amid an atmosphere heady with the scent of sex. The action stops, and Alice chants, “One two three four five six seven — you’re going to Hell, and I’M GOING TO HEAVEN!!” It’s a pulp paperback reincarnated as primal rock ’n’ roll.

“One of the songs, The Boy Had It All, was actually inspired by Howie Pyro,” Kid explains. Pyro, who died May 4, 2022, was a N.Y.C. punk fixture who co-founded D Generation and was a popular party DJ and music / movie archivist. “The Boy Had It All is the latest in a series of “songs about people we know that are gone. It seems to be a recurring theme, because sometimes when people leave this Earth, it’s hard to believe that they’re not on Earth anymore. They were all — no, they are — special friends that I thought were magical people. I always want to try to capture something before that magic flies away. I mean, I can’t grasp it anymore. But when it’s fresh, it’s like, ‘OK, we gotta write about this magical person.’ ”

The album ends with an extended soundscape, Murder Of Sunrise, which Kid claims is meant to be his Barry White song. “That was my idea,” he says, proud yet almost sheepish. “I was like, ‘This is a Barry White song and here’s some chords that are kind of like Barry White, kind of Never Gonna Give You Up.’’ And I’m talking about how I’m in ecstasy!  And I thought, ‘You know, Barry White has been an actual real influence, you know?’ I realized that because I got asked during the pandemic — again, a German TV show. Someone I knew was making a documentary about the influence of Barry White. And he had remembered many years ago at the beginning of The Pink Monkey Birds that I had said, when he asked, ‘What’s your new band gonna sound like?’ And I said, ‘It’s gonna sound like Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen meet at a Barry White concert.’ So he actually remembered that like 15 years ago or something. He said, ‘Will you be in this documentary and talk about Barry White?’ I was like, ‘Of course, Barry’s the king!’

“So there’s all kinds of ridiculous, but heartfelt influences on the album,” he concludes. “Well, I don’t think they’re ridiculous influences, but they are unexpected sometimes, even to me.”


Photo By Luz Gallardo.