As of the release of The Supreme Genius, Montreal-by-way-of-Germany (and Chicago and France) outfit King Khan & The Shrines is on the eve of their tenth anniversary as a band. It’s a fairly stunning fact to consider, especially since it was just last year when the band started to see recognition on a reasonably wide scale, thanks to critical acclaim of their third album What Is?!. The unfortunate thing about that album’s acclaim was its relative difficulty in locating—I, personally, went through three or four failed avenues before finally tracking down a vinyl copy, and that, oddly enough, was easier to find than a CD copy. But thanks to iTunes, file sharing and In The Red’s reissues of King Khan’s other albums with BBQ Show (Mark Sultan), people were starting to catch on to that supreme genius.
In 2008, the world will be able to get its fix of King Khan & The Shrines without much difficulty, thanks to Vice Recordings. The Supreme Genius of King Khan & The Shrines, the band’s debut Vice release, is a compilation of songs spanning the group’s nine-year lifespan, with songs from What Is?! taking up a pretty hefty chunk of aural real estate, and rightfully so. But with two other full-length albums, not to mention various seven-inch singles, King Khan & The Shrines have a wealth of material to pull from, and their growth and rise from garage rockers to magnificent psychedelic rock and soul caravan is well chronicled on this release.
The comp starts off with first single “Torture,” from way back in 2000, when the seeds of the band’s imaginative sound were just being planted. As such, it’s one of the most straightforward songs here, but still pretty fantastic. “Took My Lady Out To Dinner” grooves hard, and smirks just as much with its chorus of “she’s ugly, she’s fat!” From What Is?! come standouts like “(How Can I Keep You) Outta Harm’s Way,” “Land of the Freak” and “Welfare Bread,” all of which definitely belong here—these are essential tracks for any collection. Of course, it also omits such stellar tracks as “69 Faces of Love” and the tripped-out “Cosmic Serenade,” but there’s only so much room on one CD.
“Sweet Tooth” comes from a Dirtbombs split, and is as fiery and reminiscent of James Brown as King Khan gets. By comparison “Shivers Down My Spine” is a slinky and sexy track from Three Hairs and You’re Mine, part ballad and part noir crime theme. “Destroyer,” the sole representative from Mr. Supernatural has an incredible horn hook and a dense groove that makes it a strong contender as one of the band’s best, while “Burnin’ Inside” teases with a ringing guitar riff before drums and bass bust in and those fabulous horns beef up the song’s muscle.
It’s about time that King Khan & The Shrines be unleashed to a much wider audience, as they’ve been a well kept secret for a long time. Anyone who hasn’t yet put some cash down for a Shrines album should strongly consider adding this to his list. I truly hope that a statewide reissue of What Is?! is in the works, however, for as great of an introduction this compilation is, that album is an absolute necessity.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.