Hot on the heels of finishing Dave Grohl’s memoir of a sort, The Storyteller, I eagerly dived into the new autobiography from guitarist and songwriter Kid Congo Powers, best know for his time with The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and more, Some New Kind Of Kick.
While I was familiar with Powers, real name Brain Tristan, from some elements of his near half century in music, I was largely unaware of his background or life off stage and naturally, that’s where this story begins, with his upbringing in suburban Los Angeles, La Puente specifically, as part of a large Mexican American family.
I’ll admit the opening few chapters about his very early life, I found hard to engage with, perhaps as it is so different from my own but it wasn’t long before the young Kid was beginning to discover not just music but aspects of his own sexuality that it started to click and from then on the book is a wild ride of peaks of troughs through a life that is truly astonishing.
Not shying away from anything Powers, and his co-author Chris Campion, weave a tale of literal sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll that would put most to shame and does a terrific job of neither glamourising or decrying any aspect of that.
From an outsider teenager in Hollywood founding a fan club for The Ramones, Powers’ story is one of chance encounter after chance encounter which takes him all over the world and there are points where he feels as much along for the ride as we are and, as it goes on, it becomes clear why as, through a somewhat drug addled haze, he attempts to wrestle with his own identity on several levels.
This is the book’s real strong point as, while the tales of life with Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, Jeffrey Lee Pierce or Nick Cave are undeniably fascinating we get a real view into a side of life in the broader 1980s and early 90s alternative music scene that we don’t often see.
In this Powers exposes us to the queer side of the scene and its clear that, while those involved are largely non-judgemental, there is still a different and worthy story to tell here and his own explorations lead us through the journey in a genuinely unique way.
Along with that we get a real sense of how DIY the world of punk rock could be (something that feels somewhat lost these days) with Powers joining Pierce and forming The Gun Club before he even owned a guitar, let alone could play one, and this follows the likes of Jon Doe’s Under The Big Black Sun in taking us into the heart of a very specific time and place in punk rock.
Through all of this Powers comes across as an exceptionally convivial figure, despite his often darkly toned on stage style, and he has a sense of looking back on his life in a remarkably fair and honest way, as willing to point out his own faults as much, or more, than others.
Finishing up in the mid 1990s it still feels like there’s a chunk of Kid Congo Powers’ life story to be told as this all concludes before he forms The Pink Monkey Birds (his current band) but given the title, Some New Kind Of Kick, it feels like this is what we see here, the roller coaster ride that laster longer than most from LA to London, Berlin, Australia and more and back to LA and all the experiences that came with that.