Boots Electric: Honkey Kong

Honkey Kong

On September 19, 2011, Boots Electric (aka Jesse Hughes, aka The Devil) released one of my favorite albums of all-time, the amazingly fun Honkey Kong. Though it was ostensibly a solo release, it’s not unfair to think of this as the third-and-a-half Eagles Of Death Metal record, since musicians include past & future EODM alumni including Josh Homme, Joey Castillo, and Troy Van Leeuwen and since a third of these songs found their way – in rerecorded fashion – onto the official fourth Eagles… release four years later.

It’s hard to pin down why it’s one of my favorites. I first heard this album as an in-store play at the local Newbury Comics and stayed in the store long enough to hear it play in its entirety before asking a clerk about the record. Rarely does something completely unknown grab my attention that immediately. I had some familiarity with Eagles Of Death Metal at that point, but this was different enough that I didn’t make the connection at first.

Honkey Kong was synth-laden but somehow still raw and primal with visceral guitar riffs and an urgency to Jesse Hughes‘s vocals that put me in mind of Jon Spencer and The Reverend Horton Heat. Boots also branches out a bit stylistically, easing off EODM’s signature cock-rock on mellower numbers such as “No Fun,” and “You’ll Be Sorry.” Arena rock guitars open would-be power-ballad “Oh… Girl.” He ventures into the psychedelic with the phenomenal “Trippy Blob,” an acid-laced revisit of the 1958 camp classic The Blob, and touches on classic southern spiritual (though he refers to it as “a hillbilly number” in the video below) with “Swallowed By The Night.”

 

 

But while these stylistic departures are welcome inclusions on this album, it’s really the flat-out rock-and-roll numbers that define the record. Opener “Complexity” is a masterclass in butt-shaking: fun, loose, sparse, and funky, both its composition and lyrics a tribute to simplicity. “Speed Demon” is Jesse ‘The Devil’ Hughes at his 1960s rebel rock best – you can practically hear him snorting coke during the spoken introduction before it tears loose into a rockabilly number that would have Brian Setzer shitting himself. The eponymous “Boots Electric Theme” finds Boots trading lines with Juliette Lewis in joyfully pornographic fashion, while the video for the song tackles pornography with the same – ahem – tongue in cheek approach.

 

 

I became marginally obsessed with this album after I first bought it, playing nothing else for weeks afterward. Six years later, I still can’t turn the volume up loud enough when any one of the songs shuffles up to the top of my iPod and I’ll randomly choose to play through the whole record from time to time or shuffle it into an Eagles Of Death Metal playlist. And I’ll be honest: part of why I love this album so much (and the EODM albums) is that I’m the same age as Boots and he’s still tearing it up like someone twenty years younger. At an age where a lot of dreams have slipped away with the years, it’s great to see someone still living his in such spectacular fashion.

Honkey Kong escaped any sort of mainstream notice upon its release, though it was well-reviewed. Authentic rock-and-roll rarely rates in the American radioscape anymore, but when you’re in the mood for a platter that keeps the party moving while still delivering tons of heart, pour some white lightning, turn down the lights, turn up the volume and get “raped by miracles through the night.”

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