While "guitar hero" evokes six-string wizards of bygone eras, the punk-alt-indie-rock scenes definitely produced their own counterparts (loath as they may be to admit it). Johnny Ramone, J. Mascis, and X's Billy Zoom redefined the role of the guitar as surely as Eric Clapton and Jerry Garcia established standards for the '60s and '70s.
Another under-recognized icon is Kid Congo Powers, who's had his fingers in some crucial musical pies: The Gun Club, the Cramps, Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, and the Knoxville Girls all bear the marks of Kid's loving lacerations. But don't stereotype him as a hired gun; Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds show that papa's got a brand-new bag. While some performers cloak their sexuality in ambiguity, Powers affirms his homosexuality in a nonpolitical manner. The band's latest, Philosophy and Underwear, boasts candidly matter-of-fact lyrics -- especially "Johnny" ("he'll make you big in the pants") and "Even Though Your Leather Is Cliché" -- without forgoing its surly, trash-rockin' attitude one iota. And Powers' guitar retains that coiled-rattlesnake bite.