The Supreme Genius of King Khan & The Shrines

Something's slightly skewed inside King Khan's skull. Pause to look at his press photos, where he's either dressed for beach season in Nice or simply in wardrobe on the set of the latest Wes Anderson jaunt. Or consider the possibility whether or not Khan swiped his name from the fabled professional wrestler and master of the Mongolian Chop, Kin Corn Karn. Or maybe you'd prefer to just listen to What Is?, the album that the Montreal-raised Khan released on the tiny Hazelwood label last year. In particular, "69 Faces of Love," one of 2007's finest songs, a pure cotton candy melody built on delicate electric guitars and a beautiful babble of stacked sun-kissed horns, frail strings, and rain-drop drums--a landscape so pristine you'd think it had been conjured under the influence of some sound-bombing Blue Cheer licked during a placid love-in in Golden Gate Park circa 1967.

Lyrically, it's a different story, with the song's subject, the fact that like Bill and Ted, "69" is the number that Khan's thinking of. It's hook reads, "you really blow my mind...come on wine, dine, 69," illustrating how Khan's Zappa-esque playfulness melds with sharp technique, as the erstwhile leader of the BBQ Show crafts a sublime hybrid of Nuggets-type garage rock and Wilson Pickett-like soul. Of course, he's trying to fuck with you. The guy can't keep a straight face, rifling off gorgeous melodies to disappear into and then bursting the bubble with a cackled "shout out to all the deaf girls." I assume he means Foxy Brown?

Last month, Vice wisely snapped up Khan and his 11-piece backing band The Shrines, whose line-up includes Ron Streeter, a 60 year old Chicagoan who drummed for among others, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder; plus a horn section featuring Simon Wojan (Cloudland Canyon), Ben Ra (billed as "Germany's John Coltrane,") and the apparently famed French rockabilly saxophonist Big Fred Rollercoaster. Since I'm neither up on French Rockabilly nor Roller Coasters, I'll just have to take Vice's word for it. They're currently embarking on their first U.S. tour and I'll inevitably have more to say about them after I catch the live show. In the meantime, I'd advise you to scoop up the MP3's and cop The Supreme Genius Of, a Greatest Hits compilation of sorts, and an early contender for album art of the year. It may not bring world peace nor lower miniature golf scores like Wyld Stallyns' music, but even Ted "Theodore" Logan and Bill S. Preston Esq. would be hard-pressed to deny that it's not "excellent."

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