Louis Paul Bankston aka King Louie is arguably the most prolific musician to emerge from New Orleans’ storied but largely obscured underground music scene. The Harahan native has fronted or belonged to nearly a dozen bands in his 25 year career, including the short-lived but highly influential 90s punk outfit The Persuaders as well as The Bad Times, a 1998 studio project that included Eric Oblivian and a then little-known guitar raconteur by the name of Jay Reatard. He’s toured the globe, worked with the likes of Guitar Lightin’ Lee and Alex Chilton, and lords over an undeniable sphere of consequence that encompasses artists from the Box Elders to The Black Lips.
And like literally every other garage-, punk- or noise-rock musician, it’s clear King Louie dips into the common list of influences that has been rattled off a thousand times before – The Kingsmen, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stooges – but there is more to the his unyielding output than the relentlessly name-dropped founding fathers of underground rock ‘n’ roll. Since his early work as a member of The Royal Pendletons, Louie has unabashedly shown a deference to some of the more saccharine threads of popular music as well, and the DNA of his new project Missing Monuments seems to owe as much to Carl Perkins and Donny Osmond as it does to Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten.
The band’s full-length debut opens with the rollicking “Girl Of The Night”, a knowing study in classic power-pop that sets the tone for an assault of bouncy rhythms, steel-trap hooks, and enormous guitar solos. But the rough edges slowly shine through as subsequent songs ecstatically descend towards Bankston’s long and mythical garage-punk past. “(It’s Like) XTC” keeps the slick, jangly tempo of its predecessor but adds a layer of raspy gang vocals, a gradual loosening of the belt that comes to a head with “All Bandaged Up”, a bluesy, hard luck ramble filled out with raunchy harmonica blasts and extended guitar jams. But even booze-soaked shanties like “Nite Fall” maintain playful nods in structure to the class of surprisingly inspired and undeniably catchy AOR standards that King Louie openly celebrates.
Occasionally thin production lifts a layer of energy away from quick-stop, straightforward rippers like “Hot Class”, but King Louie’s affection for these songs in particular (and songwriting in general) is obvious, while the sheer abundance of his output makes it difficult to keep a highly critical eye trained on any specific work for too long. On it’s surface, Painted White is an engaging spin on the shameless indulgence of power-pop, and upon further inspection it’s nothing if not yet another interesting artifact from a powerhouse local musical pioneer.