Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds - La Arana Es La Vida

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Kid Congo Powers spent his career in the '80s and '90s as a sideman, putting his idiosyncratic talents as a guitarist to the service of others (It's true Powers co-founded the Gun Club, but Jeffrey Lee Pierce was clearly the man in charge of that group.) This may be why Powers' early efforts with his band the Pink Monkey Birds seemed a bit tentative, fun but lacking the fire of his best work for others. Thankfully, Kid Congo has finally hit his stride as a frontman and songwriter, and 2016's La Arana Es la Vida is an album as commanding as his wild talent deserves. Powers and his bandmates sound both casual and tight on these performances, full of fire but with a loose-limbed feel. It feels like anything can happen with this PMB lineup, and their fusion of blues, garage rock, early punk, and Chicano rock is potent. The buzzy stomp of "La Arana," the lean and mean charge of "We Love You," and the swampy carnival sound of "Chicano Studies" all hit the bullseye in different but satisfying ways. La Arana Es la Vida is very much a rock & roll album, but Powers' music has a depth and texture that belie the elemental nature of his songs.

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