The new album from Kevin K is called Party Store and it is a much needed tonic for your ears, reminding the listener in no uncertain terms that despite the prevailing doom and gloom and lockdown lunacy that the world finds itself in 2020 – rock ‘n’ roll has the power to rejuvenate – it’s good for the head, it’s good for the soul, that good time remedy they call rock ‘n’ roll – as Angry Anderson once sung.
Angry gets it, Kevin K understands it too. Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll is something you can depend upon –and together with Ricky Rat, he has gone about quietly releasing THE rock album of 2020, but before we put the magnifying glass over the new record, let me provide some background. For 15 years Ricky Rat was guitar player in The Trash Brats – Detroit’s way underappreciated glam punk outfit who in a righteous world would have been superstars. In recent years Ricky has been playing bass in the reformed Dead Boys with Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz as well as fronting his own band the Ricky Rat Pack. Ricky has released a bunch of cool records in recent years including the excellent “Songs In C Major Love” album as well as playing guitar with the Kevin K Band for more than 20 years now – which has included European Tours and playing on several albums including 2002’s Story Of My Life, 2009’s critically acclaimed Deutschland and 2013’s Allies album to name but a few. Kevin K’s last couple of album’s have been 2018’s The CBGB Years and a 7” called Dry Drunk.
Enough context. Let’s enter the Party Store which is a collaborative effort between Ricky and Kevin and together they have come up with an album of stupendous melodic rock with plenty of appeal. Remember when rock ‘n’ roll was fun? This is a fun, good time rock n roll record which doesn’t stray from the accustomed Kevin K formulae of catchy melodic power pop littered with crunching guitars, plenty of hooks, sing a long chorus’ and killer riffs.
The album bursts open with the Ramones-like ‘Identity Crisis’, with a super catchy melody and sing along chorus. Forget 53rd and 3rd – all you really need is the 13th street beat. Kevin K nailed his colours to the mast long ago and the Ramones / Johnny Thunders / CBGB’s commonalities are part of his DNA. Throw in a tasteful Ricky Rat solo and you have a radio hit on your hands.
Kevin K’s love for cats is surpassed only by his love for Jennifer Love Hewitt, and on ‘Song For Lulu’, he pays homage to his favourite cat Lulu. More than a heartfelt tribute, musically this is top-shelf pop reminiscent of 70’s era John Fogerty tied off with a tasty guitar lick and another singalong chorus.
Song number three is the dirty blues of ‘Shame’ a fiery, hardened blues thumper about lost love complete with rollicking piano courtesy of Tony Castellano Jr. For a man with a fondness for Sinatra, Castellano Jr. assuredly channels Jerry Lee on this tune, his piano intertwining nicely with the muscular guitar. This is a cracker.
Next up is ‘You Don’t Call Me’, a melancholic heartbreaker awash with sweet melodies, a lush arrangement and the intertwining harmony vocals of Kevin K and Rebekah Pulley. Pulley is a Florida based Americana / Folk singer whose current album, ‘The Sea of Everything’ comes highly recommended. This tune starts off with just acoustic guitar and vocals before the other instruments deliberately arrive a little later on in a country-fused ballad highlighted by a poignant and searing guitar solo.
The Kevin K signature sound is never more evident than on ‘She’s Cold’ – a short, sharp, pop punk tune from a band that sound reinvigorated, and it’s a blast hearing Kevin K and Ricky Rat lock-in with music this peppy and spirited. A song made all the more appealing by Kevin K’s gift for hooks and melodies.
“Lost America’ is another appealing riff-heavy punk tune with political commentary about the current state of chaos that Uncle Sam finds itself. On the surface it’s a 3 minute punker, yet there is a lyrical depth in the message. Unlike others who have traded off as cartoon punks or Joe Strummer wannabes, Kevin K has always stood apart from other songwriters due to his lyrical themes. Sure there’s cars ‘n’ girls, yet often he is a social commentator for the oppressed and downtrodden. Many of his albums contain a historical edge too, giving the listener strong thematic images of cold war Europe and post war Germany, The Berlin Wall, D- Day and the Manhattan Project as an example. ‘Lost America’ is a political observation with a wry delivery. An anthem for the teenage wasteland.
‘Sensitive Generation’ also rocks hard, and takes a swipe at the millennials with more wry lyrics. “You want a new green deal – I want a Happy Meal’. Love it. Some killer guitar work throughout the entire song scores another green tick. ‘You Heard Me Calling’ is chock full of glam goodness and grooves with a capital G with thumping drums underscoring the whole thing. Mike Chapman eat your heart out.
The punk ‘n’ roll continues on the defiant ‘Dog House’, highlighted by a scorching surf guitar riff and a very appealing Thunders-esque solo before an authentic cover of The Heartbreakers ‘Let Go’ winds up proceedings in a loud and likable way. As a bonus there is an alternate version of ‘You Don’t Call Me’ with Rebekah Pulley on sole lead vocals.
The engine room comprises a couple of guys from The Krazy Kats (Kevin’s Florida based band, as opposed to his European band), being Ronnie Dintaman (Ex-Descending Fate, Shitcan Dirtbag) on rock solid bass and ex-Murder Junkie Duane Rollick keeping time on drums. Ricky Rat’s razor sharp guitar playing always adds depth to the sound and Kevin K is singing better than ever.
From powerpop to melodic punk, there’s a ballad, there’s glam, there’s blues, catchy choruses’, killer riffs and solos – The Party Store has something for even the most discerning listener. If you dig The Ramones or the Dead Boys, Greg Kihn or Westerberg, Iggy or Bowie – there is something in the Party Store just for you.
Rock ‘n’ rolls most unheralded hit maker is back in a big way. Not just highly recommended – but also The Australian Rock Review’s choice for “Album of 2020”. It’s time to Party Down at the Party Store! 10 out of 10.
Party Store by Kevin K & Ricky Rat is out now on Circumstantial Records