23. Greg Kihn, Next of Kihn
Perhaps the only thing that needs to be known about Next of Kihn, the third album by Baltimore-born Greg Kihn with the band that bore his name, is that it inaugurated the practice of titling his releases with unconscionably bad puns, including but not necessarily limited to: Rockihnroll, Kihntinued, Kihnspiracy, Kihntagious, Citizen Kihn, Kihnsolidation (a greatest hits release, natch), and, maybe worst of all, Kihn of Hearts. I’m not even sure I’ve spelled all those correctly. I don’t care.
While Kihn would have a string of hits in the nineteen-eighties, he was more of a cult figure in the seventies, one of the stable of artists on the little Berserkely label, also home to the far more interesting and important Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers. A struggling label that always looking for distribution, Berserkely has recently broken off with CBS/Playboy Records and signed up with a company called GRT. Next of Kihn was the first official release under that new agreement. Kihn was also notable for being one of the artists given the imprimatur from Bruce Springsteen, still at the time one of the coolest of the cult hero rockers himself. Springsteen even specifically offered up one of his songs to Kihn, an offer accepted one album later (based on a favorable appraisal of Kihn’s earlier take on Springsteen’s “For You”). For Next of Kihn, though, the artist was trying to prove himself his own man.
More celebrated for his covers on earlier releases, Next of Kihn was viewed as something of a statement of purpose, or singularity, of identity. Whether it succeeded on that front is another matter. Panned for its brevity (the whole thing doesn’t reach thirty minutes) and the bloated meanderings of some of the songs, it was seen as an example of the performer unable to play to his own strengths. He had a clear, if limited, talent for a certain type of song: direct, plain-spoken, catchy, and winsome. Whether due to gradual nature of artistic growth or a sheepish aversion to indulging in creation of somewhat disposable pop songs, Kihn seemed to just barely be finding his way to that in 1978. Granted, he never became an artist of true significance, but that reluctance to pursue brilliantly chintzy pop songs would indeed pass.