I didn't know much about Kid Chaos prior to receiving a copy of their new album, Love in the Time of Scurvy. About two or three years ago, I'd seen the band at Rick's Place in Denton, show No. 2 of The Grown-Ups' reunion tour of Texas. I didn't pay much attention to them, shrugging off most of the set, which included, among other things, a cover of the Cars classic "Just What I Needed." A few months after the show, I referred to the band--wrongly, I might add--as a ska band, an idea that then-trombone player Jay Singleton took pains to correct in a long-winded letter to the editor. Oh, and in March of this year, somewhere in the middle of Austin in the middle of the night, I jumped up and down on the front fender of an SUV containing Kid Chaos guitarist Fadi El-Assad. Two or three others were engaged in the same activity, trying to rouse the partied-out El-Assad, who had passed out in the aforementioned vehicle with the doors locked, the keys in his pocket.
To say the least, I didn't really know what to expect from Love in the Time of Scurvy, based on a hazy memory, an angry letter, and one inebriated guitar player. The sound I remembered from my sole encounter with the group could have been any of a number of bands filed away in the corner of my mind without any other identifying marks. Actually, to be honest, I thought Kid Chaos broke up years ago, since they disappeared, understandably, after the tragic death of drummer Corey Mickles (who appears here posthumously on the hidden track "Honor Roll Pimp"). And, as it turns out, I was right. The band that I remember from that foggy show at Rick's, however, is gone now, blown away by the new version of Kid Chaos. No matter what you think about Kid Chaos before listening to Love in the Time of Scurvy, you'll be wrong.
With creative production courtesy of The Paper Chase's John Congleton, the album is more energetic and in-the-moment than most live albums, relying on performance rather than originality. I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out where I'd heard the main riff on the title track until I realized that it doesn't matter. After all, Kid Chaos plays each song as if they just came up with every note, so you might as well quit looking for someone else's fingerprints. There are horns, sure, but you'd never mistake the music on Love in the Time of Scurvy for ska. It's Rocket from the Crypt rather than Less Than Jake (or whatever ska-punk band you feel like inserting here), loud-fast-rules rock and roll punctuated by periodic horn blasts. Led by Mike Weibe's smiling, sneering vocals, the band tears through songs about hookers with hearts of gold, Jerry Seinfeld, the Rat Pack, and bad tattoos, each one seemingly better than the one before it. Maybe that's true.