Philosophy and Underwear
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For all his work singing and playing over many years, Kid Congo Powers had never released a full solo album as such until Philosophy and Underwear, though to be sure it was with a crackerjack four-piece backing him up. Trashy, sly and hilarious, Philosophy and Underwear is just a joy of an album, with Powers showing his zest for life and sense of humor which, far from being jaded, is even more appropriate in the 21st century than in the 20th. With various guests, including singer Little Annie helping out as well, the resultant dozen songs make for a treat of a listen. It kicks off with a brilliant highlight, "The History of French Cuisine," which isn't necessarily that, but it's a great title for a slow strut of a number about a sashaying performer from New Orleans. The whole album feels like one glammed-up barrelhouse cabaret rampage after another — very much a good thing — with Powers changing his delivery or how it's recorded for extra effect (thus the carnival barker touch on "Johnny"). The ultimate winner for its title alone is "Even When Your Leather Is Cliché...," but happily the whole song is a killer bitchfest, while the full duet with Little Annie, "The Weather The War," is the album's dark heart, a Nancy & Lee song gone to some strange hell. The electronic experimentation Powers has indulged in from time to time surfaces as well, in no small part due to Jorge Velez's way around bleeps and skronks, and "Why Hurt Flesh" is a prime example of it, not far removed from a crisp reworking of Soft Cell's groundbreaking fusion of Suicide-goes-Vegas. There's also an interesting nod to the past in a re-recording of his late-'80s effort "La Historia de un Amour," transforming the slick art-dance-rock of the original into a fiery, exotica-tinged rave-up.
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