The King Khan & BBQ Show, as soon as I read about this LP before it came out in 2005 I knew I had to own it – a double LP of primitive doo-wop, garage rock/punk/R&B played furiously by two crazed Montreal ex-pats living in Germany, both of whom used to be in a punk band called the Spaceshits? … I just didn’t feel worthy. One quick gander at the two gents on the cover, skipping arm-in-arm down a road (presumably in Germany) clad in historico-eccentric fashion, banished all the doubts that I didn’t have already about buying this little beauty.
Well Suzie’s in the corner
and she’s always automatic
She likes to trigger start a fight
she’s always problematic
When she’s in the headlock
in the middle of the floor
She likes to put on her make up
in the middle of a war
Cause it’s a fish fight
Yeah it’s a fish fight
The dudes in question are King Khan, my favourite Indian-Canadian Berlin-based loon ball and Mark Sultan, a gentleman who was also in a great band called Les Sexareenos who did one of my favourite feel-good tunes ever*, who adopted for reasons best known to him, the moniker BBQ. Like a lot of true punks King Khan & BBQ realised that there was a lot to be said for dragging music back 35 years or so, and just like The Mothers of Invention with their doo-wop fixation** and Wild Billy Childish with his wonderfully careless take on maximum R&B, The King Khan & BBQ Show dials the time machine back to a mythical 1965 of thuggish R&B and twisted dance floor fillers that never were. There’s nary a sound here to betray when this collection was put together and that’s very much to its’ own (in)glorious credit.
To dip in at random, it’s all good (sometimes great); ‘Pig Pig’ and its frenetic flatlining on Benzedrine take on Andrew Loog Oldham’s chaotic wall-of-noise is a white-knuckle ride but no less great than the raunchy, well-sung ‘Shake Real Low’ which sounds like a bunch of backwoods Neanderthals covering a forgotten early 60’s smash in a defective studio – I mean that in a great way. The lovely clean picking and singing at the beginning of ‘Bimbo’s Theme’ eventually leads us into a howled vocal coda that could be used as evidence in an acquittal for insanity. There’s a sly atonality in the guitars on closer ‘Mind Body & Soul’ that manages to hint at the Velvet Underground in a brawling mood as well as flash its art at us.
My favourite two tracks are the first two. Opener ‘Waddlin’ Around’, with crazed doo-wop harmonies lurking around its frayed edges shows some serious guitar chops towards the end of its, not too serious life. ‘Fish Fight’ is even better, it sounds like a vicious altercation in a sleazy bar at 9.30 at night between regulars who’ve been getting stoked up on a heady mix of brandy and cleaning products since lunchtime, the echoing production is perfection itself.
Whisper it quietly but beneath all the frivolity, scatological lyrics and sloppy key changes there are two really excellent musicians at work here with a real engrained love for music from this period – you have to be to carry this type of LP off. The King Khan & BBQ Show is not a novelty comedy record, its a collection of rather great tunes and moments a number of which just happen to be really rather funny – I love records with a sense of humour and this is one for sure. Just check out the large-format Blonde On Blonde-size gatefold front cover.
The icing on the BBQ cake is two-fold. Firstly, we have a bonus side of live -in-the-studio tracks, including a great cover of Velvet Underground obscurity ‘Guess I’m Fallin’ In Love’, are thrashed out to within an inch of their lives. Second up the inside of the album opens up into their very own board game, including a sheet of pieces and some illustrative pictures of Sultan wearing blackface and Khan wearing whiteface. The game revolves around going out on as many dates as you can during a week and avoiding being stood up, fun for all the family!^
This is special, this is totally throwaway music that should be preserved for all time and it rocks. I don’t need any more of anything else right now, if anyone wants me I’ll be outside slow-dancing to ‘Take Me Back’.
PS – totally inspired by Khan starring in the Moon Duo video I discovered yesterday. Which is why I yanked it out from its hiding place tonight, sitting next to In The Court of The Crimson King, I wonder what they talk about at night when we’re all asleep?
* Dig it! It makes me grin from ear to ear.
**often my favourite bits of their stuff by far.
^although any family member getting anywhere near my copy of this album with a pair of scissors risks getting a noogly on top of their heads! ^^
^^’noogly’ is defined in the Websters English Dictionary as a sharp digging on the top of a victim’s head by the aggressor’s knuckle.