CHINESE DEMOCRACY - Kitty & The Kowalskis (Amp Records)
It's a little-known fact that Kitty Kowalski (singer for Kitty & The Kowalskis, strangely enough) played a part in keeping rock and roll afloat in New York City in the '90s. As part owner of Coney Island High at St Mark's Place (until being burned in a business deal that turned bad) she ruled one of the best, small clubs in a city renowned for rolling back the rock as its urban renewal marches on. So it's no surprise to see her doing her part to keep the party going with her own band.
"Chinese Democracy" (the title's a pisstake on the eternally in-production epic by Axl Rose) IS a party, in the finest traditions of Bowery-style New York punk. Buzzsaw guitar punk-pop (albeit with the edges slightly sanded off) framed by catchy tunes about boys and girls, being on the road and being Dee Dee Ramone.
Kitty's voice puts me in mind of a husky Debbie Harry, if that's not drawing the NYC analogy too far, and Mike Hoffman's lead guitar is sharp and resonant. Two engine rooms - Greg Farah (drums) and Mike McNamara (bass) for half the album and Dave Patrikios and Mike Dossasntoss for the other - keep it simple and tight.
Laments to Dee Dee ("Oh Dee Dee") and Joey ("Joey's Song"), the latter sung by Kitty backed by Italy's formidable The Manges, underline the album's New York-ness. More power to handclaps. A country-inflected ballad like "Matter of Time" shows a band willing to nudge barriers.
There are no shortage of references to NYC's most famous dysfunctional family. "Road to Barstow", for example, is Cretin Hop Rock all the way, no question. "I Met You There" is the song Joey should have produced with its irresistible girl band/pop hook.
I'm not sure this same line-up is still a going concern but it's a fine testimony if that's the case. I think I'm also right in saying this is only their second long-player in a decade-long existence, admittedly one broken by Kitty spending time on a day-job posting in Scandinavia. If so, let's hope the next one's not so slow in coming.
This is genuine, unaffected pop with punk stylings and worth chasing down. Pull up a Manhattan stoop (if the yuppies haven't already) and soak it up. – The Barman
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