Aside from appearing in samples in M.I.A.’s song “Sunshowers” and Ghostface Killah’s “Ghost Showers” as a member of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, August Darnell has kept his womanizing alter ego, Kid Creole, under wraps for the last decade. His return to feel-good tropical pop funk, I Wake Up Screaming, sees the fedora-wearing 1980s star revitalizing his career with an updated and boisterously happy sound. Creole’s comeback mixes genres, wit and personal history with an amicable charisma that could only be cultivated by the type of guy who wears a zoot suit and a fedora any time after 1943.
The album’s title track reworks the Coconuts’ 1983 tune “Ticket To The Tropics,” breathing the clatter of Caribbean life back into the song’s calypso beat and replacing the Coconuts’ female vocal harmonies with Creole’s loud—and in this case a little raunchy—singing. The cross-eyed woozy bliss of Creole’s 1980s hits, including “Ticket To The Tropics,” is happy as ever but more sober, sharp and clear. Creole’s voice, which has weathered some over the years, comes on strong and commanding even with tongue in cheek.
In “Blow Me Up,” Creole lists some of the genres from which he borrows the most over a whammy barred-out electric guitar and the calypso jingle of a marimba: Latin, rock, jazz, pop and “sophisticated rap,” to name a few. I Wake Up Screaming is littered with a variety of influences, from the P-Funk basslines and vocal harmonies on “Attitude,” to the moments of reggae in “This Is My Life” and the album’s title track, to the wagging Hendrix-like guitar parts in songs like “Long Live The King.”
The Kid Creole of today channels the same sonic qualities as hippie favorites like Dave Matthews Band, Michael Franti and Ben Harper, making his rattle of tropical drums, rich voice and silly feel-good lyrics (like “I’ll be who I want to be” in “This Is My Life”) appropriate for any amount of time spent playing with a hacky sack in Golden Gate Park.