Kid Congo continues his ju-ju spooked, surf-whammied, mystically debauched brand of rock ‘n roll, infusing sawed off, minimalist guitar riffery with a whiff of the supernatural. Haunted Head tends towards the eerily subdued, its grooves blaring in through some trapdoor to the otherworld. Shreds of rockabilly, soul, r&b and punk wind their way through these shrouded tunes, all much to be expected from a founding member of the Gun Club, a sometime Cramp and a guitar slinger for the Bad Seeds.
“Killer Diller” brings all these threads together, in a straight-up rock ‘n roller that is built on pompadour-spiked 4/4 guitar riffs, slurred insinuations and inebriated shouts of “yeah.” It’s a slouchy, slippery, decadent kind of rockabilly, dedicated apparently to Phyllis Diller. You can imagine Elvis breaking in for a verse or two, turning green and vomiting over the side. “I Don’t Like” which follows, is even better, a slanting, ranting, two-chord assault that must surely get the people moving live.
The mix on Haunted Head, however, seems murkier and less immediate than on 2011’s Gorilla Rose, the songs inclined to wander into asides and dead ends. “Lady Hawke Blues” follows a rumbling, rambling bassline into dissolution and party chatter. “Lamont’s Requiem” pulls the same sort of disappearing act, its slung-back surf vamp fading inexorably into a lava-colored sunset, silence, then picking up in an irony-slathered doo-wop sock hop. It’s a zombie’s prom, an undead rave-up, where the line between sweaty garage rock and psychedelic freak-out is indefinite and permeable. As Kid Congo asks in the title track, “What’s inside your haunted head? Are you alive or are you dead?” Haunted Head gives you a glimpse of the uncanny through the smoke and heat of punk rock. It’s the party album of the year…for ghosts.
DOWNLOAD: “I Don’t Like” “Killer Diller”