If I have written one word about Kevin K over the years, then I have written a thousand. I can wax lyrical about the music of Kevin K forever and a day, and to anyone who cares to listen. Kevin K deserves every success. He has paid his dues time and time again. And again. Over and over. Yet this is what he does. He writes and plays rock ‘n’ roll – as he always has. And no one does it better. Listening to Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll always puts me in a good mood, it always has. Kevin K is my favourite rock ‘n’ roller of all time – past present and future. That fact will never change. I am biased when it comes to Kevin K, but so what, at least I’m honest. I’d like to think that after a lifetime of rock ‘n’ roll, I know a thing or two about what’s good and what’s not. Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll has been a constant in my life for close on 25 years now. I own all his records, and have followed his career throughout the years. He is, if nothing else, consistent. In recent years, many of his contemporaries: Jeff Dahl, Freddy Lynxx, Rick Blaze and Nikki Sudden have either faded from the music biz or (sadly) passed way, yet Kevin tenaciously keeps at it – and for that, we should all be thankful. Show some respect.
And so it is 2016, and I’m listening to ‘Manhattan Project’, the latest Kevin K offering, and in one word – it’s great. Thematically, for many albums now, Kevin has had a preoccupation with, and written about, different aspects of the Second World War and the occupation years that followed in Europe – Everything from the D-Day landings to East Berlin and the Berlin Wall. Kevin’s father is a World War II veteran, so that has no doubt had an influence on Kevin’s writing too. Old Man Crack (whom I think is 91 nowadays) plays a smokin’ harmonica, and even lays down a harp solo on the tune, ‘Bar Stuck’. (Sounding good Mr K!) Theme wise, ‘Manhattan Project’ follows suit. The Manhattan Project was the research and development project that produced the first nuclear weapons during World War II, yet it’s also a nod to the Big Apple with Kevin acknowledging his past association with NYC, CBGB’s and all that’s now long gone….
With a whopping 16 tracks, there’s plenty to like. ‘Hey Hey Hey’ is a strong opener, and lyrically it has KK reflecting about life, and me thinks he must have been listening to early Coop circa early 70s as there are references to ‘muscle of love’ and ‘caught in a dream’. Catchy pre-chorus, and sing-along chorus. Rippin’ guitar solo too courtesy of Joey D, whose slashing solos add additional salt to the KK sound. A reworking of the Alan K tune ‘Nine Lives’ is welcome –melodically brooding, this version stays true to the original and gives the music of his brother renewed relevancy. And rightly so. I still think Kevin should release an entire album of Alan K penned tunes, but I’ll take what I can get – and this one remains on high rotation with me. (Go buy Kevin’s 1997 album ‘Rule The Heart’ which includes several great demos by Alan K). The faster paced ‘In The Cold’ heads down familiar ‘77 Dead Boys territory, as does an updated version of ‘Better Class Of Slut’. That’s a good thing folks. ‘Rocks Off Union’ is a good example of what I call the ‘Kevin K sound’ and what makes KK r ‘n’ r so great. Lots of hook, mid tempo riff, likeable vocal, catchy sing-along chorus and an oversupply of melody. Nod your head in time kids – this is the shit, and he has written dozens and dozens of tunes like this. I also have to make mention of Joey D’s rippin’ solo on this one – tasteful, melodic, memorable. It’s always music to my ears (pardon the pun) when Kevin pays homage to his musical past – giving life to tunes that were perhaps overlooked the first time around (and at the same time honouring the legacy and memories of his brother Alan K and Peter Cain). That way a whole new audience gets to hear ‘em. That concept continues with renewed versions of a few Road Vultures tunes, namely ‘Hangin On’ and the super catchy ‘Rosalene’ (from 1994’s ‘Ride’ album), and ‘OK Tonight’, ‘Hassles’ and ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Bar’ (from 1993’s ‘Fire It Up’ album). ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Bar’, probably Kevin’s signature tune, is an out and out classic, and this version (again with a blitzin’ Joey D solo) simply kicks ass. Whip it out Cheetah. The melancholic ‘OK Tonight’ is probably my favourite all time Kevin K tune. Contemplative, unassuming, brilliant. The tribute to Alan K and Peter Cain continues with reworked versions of Lone Cowboys tunes ‘Nothin From Nothin’ and ‘Skulls Have Eyes’, both of which originally appeared on 1985’s ‘Streets Of Poison’ cassette. ‘Nothin From Nothin’ is a brilliant pop/rock song. Melody galore and further evidence of what a gifted songwriter Alan K was. A great song is a great song – and time doesn’t diminish that fact. The music of Alan K deserves to be heard. It’s that good. There’s also some cool covers included in the mix for good measure. The obligatory tip of the hat to Johnny Thunders with a faithful rendition of ‘All By Myself’, and a likeable take of Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’.
Top to bottom – Manhattan Project contains consistently strong songs – and with the year only half over, it’s safe to say I already have one of the THE album of 2016. As I’ve said many times before, whoever else it is you are listening to, whoever else it is you think is rock n roll – pales in comparison to Kevin K. Manhattan Project is another in a rich body of musical work that remains the soundtrack to my life. Kevin K is without peer. Become a convert today. Buy the album online or directly from Kevin here. 10 out of 10.