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A King In the Kindness Room

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Album Review

By the mid-'90s, the cult of Ed Kuepper was starting to spread a little more strongly around the world — constant name-checking among rabid fans in the U.K. press hadn't hurt, while distribution deals started surfacing for the States and elsewhere. But to Kuepper's credit, he just kept on keeping on, working with a variety of performers on his main 1995 solo album, A King in the Kindness Room. That Kuepper, well known for his solid choice of cover versions — Gordon Lightfoot's "Sundown" gets an inventive, sometimes rough take elsewhere that beats out the original — would tackle AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" might have seemed quixotic, but, in fact, he does an honestly intriguing take on it, turning it into a low-key dancebeat-meets-flanged violin-meets-husked vocals blend. As for the originals, Kuepper's eye for a great song title doesn't fail him — how could it with names like "Confessions of a Window Cleaner" (the snaky, slow crawl of which makes for a grand album-starter) and the instrumental freakout — with great saxophone by Louise Elliott — "They Call Me Mr. Sexy (Love Theme From CCR Versus the Third Reich)"? Then there's "Messin Pt. II," a semi-sequel to the Saints' "Messin' With the Kid" that starts with just Kuepper and acoustic guitar and turns into a rising, string-touched epic that's still warm at its heart, especially thanks to his heart-tugging voice. Kuepper's all-around abilities — he plays all the guitars and most of the bass — readily come to the fore, with his own particular combination of psychedelic murk and straightforward playing in evidence throughout. It resists all trends, and all for the better at that. The most representative track? In its own perverse way, the energetic slice of psych-funk that sounds peppy enough but is titled, but of course, "Pissed Off."


Born: Germany

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Though he formed the Saints with Chris Bailey in 1975, Ed Kuepper left the band before its biggest popular success (though after its best recordings). The Saints were one of Australia's premier punk bands, and Kuepper played on two albums before leaving in 1979 to form the Laughing Clowns, a band whose sound was jazzier and quite a bit more experimental than his former group. The Laughing Clowns released three EPs during the early '80s before their debut self-titled album appeared in 1982. Kuepper...
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