13th Street - Kevin K (Vicious Kitten)/Arbeit Macht Frei - Kevin K with Sour Jazz (13th Street Entertainment)
Kevin K ought to be huge: Think Stonesy street punk, imbued with the outlaw attitude (and sometimes lyrical obessions) of Johnny Thunders, with whom Mr K used to knock around. Temper those elements with some spiky melodies and you're halfway there. His last album (and first for Canberra's Vicious Kitten) "Magic Touch" was a grimy masterpiece. This one lacks some of its poignancy and more measured moments, but it's not far behind.
Backed by Germans Chris Lakriz (bass) and Andi Hill (drums) and recorded in Deutschland over four days in May 2001, it's up and energetic, brimful of the main man's roaring, full-throated guitar, and full of stories about lost love and Kevin's hometown of New York City. More specifically, the Lower East Side. "Son of Sam" (not the Dead Boys song) reprises the killer of the same name, while "New York City (Can't Look Back)" reflects on junkiedom, lost friends and Max's Kansas City, ultimately bidding them all goodbye.
"13th Street" runs parallel to the Dictators' "Avenue A", at least lyrically, and bemoans the gentrification of their neighborhood:
"No more dope or coke/Fun around here".
Call me a self-interested wimp - this tourist will take high-priced souvenirs over a mugging any time - but I know where they're coming from. Even rockers with street time have to pay the rent.
"Jennifer Love" is a hospital bed paen to the celeb while "Heartbroken Again", written by Kevin's late brother Alan, is a bluesy rave-up that Johnny T might have recorded, had he cleaned up and hooked up with musicians rather than scumbags in New Orleans. The Heartbreakers' "Too Much Junkie Business" is a faithful tribute. "Scissors" is a risque little song from the Road Vultures, who were the band originally populated by Kevin and Alan K, and done to fine effect. "Sundown" (partly inspired by High Plains Drifter) chugs along on ther back of an interesting guitar phrase.
Culled from shows at the Continental on St Mark's Place in September and December 2000, "Arbeit Macht Frei" is a live work-out with Kevin K's NY band, the rhythm section of Sour Jazz, Mark Rubenstein (bass) and Splat Fitzgerald (drums), plus producer Patrick K on extra guitar. A mix of older solo material and Road Vultures tunes, it motors along nicely.
Similar themes (girls, drugs, misadventures) and the biggest Thunders cop you ever did hear in "Hook Me Up". You also get covers of "Ramblin's Rose" and Tommy James and the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now".