What They Say:
The Tropical Gangster is back. August Darnell a.k.a. Kid Creole returns with his first studio album in over 10 years this Fall, ‘I Wake Up Screaming’, an epic new Creolian odyssey recorded for Strut at Darnell’s Sweden HQ. With cover artwork echoing his love of 1940s film noir, the new album explores the vibrant mind of Darnell with a variety of themes and styles ranging from the lilting tropical love paean “Verily Verily Verily” to “Stony And Cory,” echoing Darnell’s early days with Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band. Mixed by Brennan Green (Chinatown Records, New York) and Lars Nissen (Denmark), the album features co-compositions and co-productions with Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair. The album was preceded in July by the dream-like dancefloor winner, “I Do Believe,” complete with mixes by Brennan Green, Faze Action, 40 Thieves and Emperor Machine.
Darnell first came to prominence during the mid-‘70s in New York, forming Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band with his brother Stony Browder before producing a slew of eccentric projects for ZE Records including Cristina, Don Armando’s Seventh Avenue Rumba Band and Gichy Dan, as well as sporting his trademark zoot suit and fedora for the first time for the debut recordings by Kid Creole & The Coconuts. Signing on to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records and Seymour Stein’s Sire imprint, Darnell would become one of the ‘80s’ most unique and recognisable figures, scoring a brace of unforgettable chart hits mixing heavyweight tropical grooves with plenty of lyrical bite – “Stool Pigeon,” “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy,” “I’m A Wonderful Thing Baby” and more.
What We Say:
Kid Creole and the Coconuts have been neither underground nor mainstream (despite a collaboration once with Barry Manilow) during a career that has lasted over 30 years. So, with a new album now due 10 years after the last one (the live ‘Too Cool To Conga!’), the big question is whether August Darnell is going to go all freaky on us, producing a cutting-edge but undanceable mess or go for the sell-out approach with instantly-forgettable pop powered by auto-tune vocals. Well the good, and bad, news is that ‘I Wake Up Screaming’ is neither of those nightmares; it is really a pepetuation of that unique style that we all knew and loved from the 80s. But, if that’s the case, do we actually need another Coconuts album in 2011? Well, that would be down to the quality of the music across the 13 tracks (many of which were created virtually across the internet by the 60-year-old and his collaborators). Opening with a tribute to his older brother and his girlfriend (who were both instrumental in persuading Darnell to form a band), ‘Stony and Cory’ is no storming intro, rather a pleasant funky bass number with clear influences from collaborator Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler. Probably the most disappointing track on the album is the title track which comes up next: a clear attempt to recreate the ‘crazy’ sound of the Coconuts from the 80s that only manages to expose the derivativeness of the music and the often vacuous lyrics. Things get much better from here on in though, as though Darnell performs better when he doesn’t try too hard. ‘Somebody’s Got To Lose’ takes the tempo down and brings the lyric quality back up, and the single ‘I Do Believe’ is more classic Andy Butler laid-back disco vibe. Passing quickly over another low-point in the form of ‘Long Live The King’, what we used to called Side 2 of the LP is consistently good, kicking off with ‘Tudor Jones’, a six-and-a-half minute rousing ballad which may be our favourite track on the LP. There is a hint of melancholy and perhaps even a darker edge to Darnell’s voice on tunes such as ‘Blow Me Up’ and ‘Love Remains’ and the tracks, and LP, definitely benefit from this. So, to answer our own earlier question, yes, we do need a new Kid Creole and the Coconuts album in this age of disposable pop, it’s just that the record, which contains some really great tunes, is let down by a few pretty awful ones. But, after all, this is 2011, so simply buy the tunes you like and ignore the ones you don’t. We’re sure Mr. Darnell won’t mind. ‘I Wake Up Screaming’ will be released on Strut Records on September 12th.
Listen / Buy Here:
Listen to ‘Blow Me Up’ by Kid Creole and the Coconuts
Listen to ‘Tudor Jones’ by Kid Creole and the Coconuts