My first face-to-face encounter with New Kings mastermind Michael Johnson happened when he was dancing atop an über-gross Hummer obnoxiously parked outside the El Mo. Michael J. got bruised in the ensuing fracas, but his act was a goofy political performance that took big cojones and makes the title of the Kings' new disc seem particularly apt. Take Back The Streets! is grassroots protest rock of the old-school variety, in which Johnson sounds off on issues environmental, anti-corporate and anti-capitalist in his sweetly ragged rasp. He's got some good players on board, including guitarist-about-town Dean Drouillard, who ensure that the New Kings' straightforward punk rockitude is extremely tight. The best moments happen when Johnson whips out his trumpet, as on the cinematic Dead Man, a wacky melange of surfy guitars and skanky horn action that takes on genetic engineering.
The New Kings launch their disc at Lee's Palace Saturday (April 2).