kevin k hollywoodIt’s might be a truism that Kevin K is rock and roll’s best-kept secret. If you’re a regular here you’ll no doubt be sick of hearing it (and I’m sick of writing it.) But I have to say it again: Kevin K is rock and roll’s best-kept secret. So if you’re in the dark, just go with the flow and get acquainted. Trust me, it'll all be for the best.

This is glam-inflected, gritty, honest-to-goodness, mid-tempo rock and roll of the sort that white bread mainstream radio won’t touch with a whip and a stool with very long legs. So you know it’s good. “Hollywood” (like the real place) is populated by stories about partying, being fucked up or down and out, in a way that ensures this is an album that can’t be tamed (and doesn’t want to be.)

It’s Studio Album Number 15 for the New York City-raised, card-carrying alumnus of The Bowery School of The Streets and it’s right up there with the recent run of trash-punk gems. The difference this time out is that there’s a re-visited emphasis on semi-acoustic ballads - three of them, “Single Girl”, “Hollywood High” and “Heartbreak Comedy”, sit at the centre of the album – and that most of the tunes are played with four different bands or with Kevin on all instruments. Joining in are The Hollywood Stars (Streetwalkin’ Cheetah Dino Everett on bass and Roy Morgan on drums), dirty French rock and rollers The Real Kool Kats and an un-named German band (a track apiece), The St Pete All Stars (from Mr K’s semi-permanent base of Florida) and The Lower East Side Band (no prizes for guessing where they’re from; producer Patrick Klein on bass and the enigmatically-named Nolan Ramone on drums). The result is a varied but uniformly excellent output.

A couple of songs are re-heated from the past but that shouldn’t trouble too many people. “Jennifer Love Song” (a tribute to Ghost Whispering Ms Hewitt) outdoes the original and I can live with another take on “Hook Me Up”. There’s the odd clunky lyric (“The Final Damnation”) and while hankering for the Good Old Days (“Joey and Dee Dee”) won’t bring them back, it sure is fun.

The credited closer, “Circle of Thieves”, is a 1988 Hollywood demo with Kevin on drums and his late brother and Road Vultures bandmate Alan K on bass, guitar and voice. It’s a curious, trippy tune with treated tape loops and a scorching solo. A nice final statement. There’s actually an uncredited bonus track that’s pretty cool too.

Punk rock might be your staple but don’t worry about there being an acoustic centrepiece to this album. My money’s on them and the other (amped-up) songs being written somewhere on a train or tour van in Kevin’s second home of Europe or in his more recent stamping ground of the Mid-West. It’s all in the delivery and the guy imbues everything he plays with a heartfelt honesty.

While I can’t concur with Mr K’s self-description of “loser”, I want to take him at his word that he’s happy. The bus for rock stardom might have left the terminal years ago when the Road Vultures were jostling with all those other potential Next Big Things back in New York City, but there’s still an audience for music that means it. If you’re switched on enough to be part of that crowd, look no further.