King Khan & The Shrines: “Born To Die”

Photo by Tiger Lilly

From the long line of sweaty, possibly-insane, and can’t-look-away frontmen comes King Khan. The Canadian-born, Berlin-based singer is aptly named: he’s the king of any stage he graces. But keeping up with Khan and his many guises is a tough task. First came the Spaceshits, a punk outfit that became notorious in its Montreal hometown for shows that lasted barely ten minutes but included fireworks and food fights. After getting banned from most Montreal clubs in the late ’90s, Khan teamed up with guitarist Mark Sultan to form King Khan & BBQ Show. The duo’s ode to ’50s pop and rockabilly comes with a dose of sense of humor–song titles like “Waddlin’ Around” and “Fish Fight” are testament to that. But Khan’s total commitment to the greaser crooner sells the music as more than mere schtick.

In fact, whatever costume he wears, Khan gives in completely. Perhaps his best known outfit is King Khan & The Shrines, wherein Khan gets to exorcise his James Brown demons. The Shrines might not be as tight as the J.B.’s, but their ramshackle take on soul and funk is the perfect vehicle for Khan. Whether onstage or on record, he howls with abandon, bringing you under his raucous spell. Khan & the Shrines haven’t made as big a splash in North America, but in Europe, they’re heralded as some of the finest purveyors of psychedelic soul. The group already has a greatest hits to its name, and now they’re back with Idle No More, their first album in five years. It’s also their first for indie mainstay Merge Records, and the record kicks off with a bang. “Born To Die” detonates out of the gate, reveling in wah-wah guitar and Khan’s manic delivery. It isn’t pretty, but it’s a hell of a good time.

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