Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The King Khan and BBQ Show

Reprinted from the Hic-Up Issue #6.

Could I believe it? NO! Wait up, maybe Todd wrote it, but... No, he didn't! Honest to goodness post 9-11 rock and roll! There has been a small bit: the Exploding Hearts, the Soda Pop Kids, but it seems that the only BEST of it is made by none other than the King Khan and BBQ Show. Why they're the best? The same reason any band's ever the best, a la THE RAMONES, they have the best songs. Sure, that's e-z, but WHY are their songs better? Better than the two previously mentioned top-notch current-ish bands and better than the oblivious score of other music that we don't even mention or care for?

Now, while this is certainly an official endorsement, let me be clear: I am not saying you shoud just go out and listen to KK and BBQ, because, frankly you have done nothing to prove to me that you can handle it. Even worse, if you didn't get it, or didn't like it, I would be very frustrated. They carry the esoterism of authenticity, which, in music, is rarer than EVER. They lack the pretentions of the Hearts (who are power-pop with punk tendencies), and the Kids (who are VERY aware of every step they take musically, which is hard to fault them for, since it comes out SO good). KK and BBQ seem to come from a place of unashamed sentimentality, the mark of a natural, that no force on Earth or elswhere could stop them from rock and roll. Hence the two-man line-up that plays like a five piece. King Khan on lead guitar and vocals, and the heart of the group is BBQ on vocals, guitar, tambourine, bass and snare drums.

The authenticity issue: KK and BBQ feign force of nature, as in they are merely conduits for the music. It is a clear cut rock and roll/garage mix, but no listener could question the punk rock pedigree behind it. Re-inventing the wheel is estupido, and for those who don't love the wheel, for those whose lives have never been saved by the wheel, perhaps without lives to save? The Ramones played the Beach Boys played Chuck Berry. The New York Dolls played Chuck Berry and improved upon his genius by TURNING IT UP and playing it even meaner. In a way the Yardbyrds even did this earlier. KK and BBQ know this good stuff in their hearts and have stopped thinking about it, allowing it to come naturally.

The family tree is thus: Kind Kahn and BBQ played together in the mid-late 1990's as the Montreal based super-boys the Spaceshits, with whom BBQ sang and wrote songs under the name of Creepy, and King Khan (a Canadian of Indian desent) played bass as Blacksnake. The Spaceshits released two LP's "Winter Dance Party" and "Misbehavin'" and even recorded a record with Greg Lowry of the great Rip-Off Records that never saw the light of day. The Spaceshits played a super-cranked fifties style rock and roll filtered through sixties garage and seventies punk, pretty much the best of all worlds. They ran afoul of their native Quebec, with a combination of over-the-top shows involving fireworks and food-fights, a phony feud perpetrated by some wannabe band, and a besmearched and violent images on what Creepy said were trumped up charges led to them being blacklisted. They took the show to Germany where Blacksnake decided to take up residency, and The Spaceshits broked up.

Here's a nice Spaceshits extended local TV appearence on Montreal Today back in the 90's.

Back in Canada the show must go on, and Creepy/BBQ (aka Needles, Krebs, Von Needles, Skutch, Bridge Mixture, Kib Husk, Noammnn Rummnyunn, Blortz, Celeb Prenup, Mark Sultan, etc...) formed Les Sexareenos, further developing his trademark sound. Adding a keyboarder (Annie Sexareeno) upped the ante and made the rock and roll even more thorough, with BBQ (as Bridge Mixture/Noammnn Rummnyunn) behind the drums and on lead vocals. Les Sexareenos can stand proudly next to any great lo-fi or Rip-Off or Radio X band of the previous decade, such as Supercharger or the Problematics, as well as fellow Canadians super-rockers the Smugglers, who trademarked fun rock and roll in the late nineties. Most impressive about the two Sexareenos LP's "14 Frenzied Shakers" and "Live! in the Bed" is that America had already tired of good and authentic punk over the previous five years. Scream-O and the slow Grunged-Out "punk" of Hot Water Music was hot. Les Sexareenos didn't just keep it real, they helped evolve rock and roll by playing it right. Again, it's all in the songs... personal perserverance is great, if yer Oprah... I wanna dance!!!!

A freakin' awesome Les Sexareenos video.

While Mark Sultan was a Sexareeno in Quebec, Blacksnake became King Khan (whose sister, by the way, is Cocobutter Khan, the keyboarder for another terrific rock act, the Del-Gators (what a talented family!)) and formed his band King Khan and His (Sensational) Shrines. The first album "Mr. Supernatural" is an intense James Brown, through garage rock, through Motown killer and the second album 2007's "What Is?" is much more pure garage love. Soon, Sultan would be touring Germany with his one man band under the new alias of BBQ. Before long, the two reformed, practicing in an old Nazi bunker, and what came out was pure Twizzlers, baby. The first eponymous KK and BBQ record disallows those with a rock and roll ear/heart from not falling in love from the get go. The one-two punch of album openers is like mana from Dion. The #2 track "Waddlin' Around" is hands down the most beautiful thing I've heard in years and BBQ's voice makes me melt like a popscicle on the Fourth of July. It's clear that one is listening to an epitome. KK's guitar sounds so natural an organic (to the situation), like early Keef Richards. The impression that I get is that KK's songs are more garage oriented while BBQ's are more rock and roll, doo-wop, and blue-eyed soul. The division is even clearer on the second album "What's for Dinner?" which is thick and heavy with garage and punk, but the more straight-up rock and roll sticks out and complements beautifully. Hits include "Too Much in Love" the second album's coup de gras. They utilize almost every good thing about music and none of the bad.

So, the Exploding Hearts had the songs, definitely, but! They never bit the apple of PUNK ROCK fully. They had the pretty boy image, but rarely made the fist to back it up. I did adore the Hearts (still do) but when three fourths of the band died in an auto accident in 2003, Terry Six started the Nice Boys with the guys from the Riffs, they could never seem to be as good as the Hearts and Riffs were seperately, far too glam and sweet, even less able than the Hearts to explore the romantic side of things, paint that picture of life = good, while tempering it with authenticity or strength. The Soda Pop Kids have it all, from content to execution ("Soda Pop Sting" says IT ALL), but! Their transparent consiousness of what thy're doing is off-putting. The Ramones and the Dictators were smart guys playing dumb. Admitting knowledge of what yer doing implies an aknowledged importance to yer work that MAY detract from it. No post-moderism in rock and roll. I said it. Thankfully, right now, King Khan and BBQ are the second coming, so let us all kneel.

Words from BBQ/Mark Sultan:

"I don’t know a lot of that stuff, and I’m probably wrong in saying this, but who gives a fuck. For me, real rock’n’roll is important. It has shaped everything we have now culturally and even socially. To me it’s a tradition, but it’s also something that has to be kept alive. I want to be part of it. I want to keep it alive. I want to trace myself back through the ages to a direct line that I can feel proud of. I don’t think playing ‘rock’n’roll’ is being retro. I consider the 50’s and 60’s to be its heyday, yes, but I think that I have a natural tendency to write music like that because maybe I share the same influences as those guys or whatever. It really isn’t a conscious effort to sound like whomever or whatever. That happens to be the music that comes out of me, even if it’s years later, maybe due to the same choices I’ve made in life or the same ideas or whatever. So when I hear bands doing new-wave or 80’s shit or whatever, it kinda bugs me. It seems like it’s an effort to be ‘different’ or to start or be a part of something ‘new’, but it seems ultimately to be just a desperately manufactured trend that won’t last, created for the jaded. Rock’n’roll isn’t a trend to me. It’s a very important legacy that isn’t about being cool or conversely derivative or whatever. It is possible to do THAT blues progression and STILL be fresh and exciting or at least to be proud of what you have done. It’s celebratory and vital. Aged and young at once. I can understand that people wanted to turn their backs on rock’n’roll when it became mainstream, but that shit will pass. To peg a couple of years of pop music history and base a ‘scene’ out of it in any way is weird. My personal influences run from early gospel to R&B vocal groups to juke-joint shit to doo wop to rockabilly to country to rock’n’roll both white and black to soul to garage punk to beat to psychedelic to early 70’s raunch to punk to hardcore to modern garage. Those are just my influences. I listen to other things, too. The real shit will always still be there and I will always love it."

Interview excerpt from

"Waddlin' Around" from September 30, 2006 in home-turf Montreal. Kinda crummy sound but great show.

"Waddlin' Around" in Paris. Great sound, a little less energy.

A look through the fourth wall: BBQ/Mark Sultan solo doing the Rolling Stones' "Out of Time." We saw BBQ at Johnny Brenda's in Philly and he played this shit and we lost it. These kids are lame! He was super nice.

King Khan and (His) Sensational Shrines doin' "Land of the Freak" on his current summer tour which Grant was lucky enough to catch.

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