Listen to this track by genre-blending post-disco merry-makers Kid Creole & The Coconuts. It’s “My Male Curiosity”, a single that appeared on the 1984 soundtrack album for the Jeff Bridges, James Woods, Rachel Ward film Against All Odds.
“Kid Creole” is a persona of lead singer, bandleader, and creative head August Darnell, borrowing a look from 1930s zoot-suited jazz singers particularly Cab Calloway, pencil moustache and all. The band made a name for themselves as a live act in New York, a city that has a continuing tradition of jazz and Latin scenes that have endured since the 1920s onward. The sound of Kid Creole & The Coconuts is directly inspired by those older traditions, all the while utilizing the rhythms and the attitudes of the newer ones like art rock, disco, and punk. That’s what made them unique, along with Darnell’s theatrical stage presence as backed by a larger scale band and three colourful women backup singers which captured a visual dynamic as well as a musical one.
Otherwise, there’s more to their music than just a lead singer backed up by women singers. There’s a real musical dialogue going on here, particularly on this song. And I think too that it would be a mistake to take what’s being said in this song by its central character at face value. This tune has something to say about relationships, too.
What “My Male Curiosity” showcases very well beyond the irresistible push and pull vocal dynamics between Darnell and The Coconuts is how a unique narrative is constructed between two points of view represented between them. This is the story of a philanderer tiring of his lover in favour of a new one, backing out of the relationship with a shrug and a smirk. The Coconuts collectively play the part of the betrayed lover, unconvinced by the philanderer’s justification for leaving. That’s the thing with this song. It demands you to consider just how reliable or not the central figure actually is.
The perspective of the curious male at the center of this song rests on the idea that one cannot change one’s nature; “hound dogs can’t be tamed”, he says matter-of-factly. This suggests the (mostly bullshit, in my opinion) argument that humanity was never made for monogamy anyway, and that there are certain drives in the male makeup that make commitments to one person impossible, so why fight it? In this case he was convinced that his lover would change him. But he was wrong, sad to say. Another girl has come along to arouse his (male) curiosity (read: his lust), and there’s not a thing that he can do. Sorry, toots! It’s just nature.
But The Coconuts don’t let him get away with it. “It’s been a pleasure loving you (“can’t say the same to you!” say The Coconuts) but if I stay with you (“when did I ask you to?”)” reveal that the lover in question isn’t too heartbroken at her swain’s reversal of attitude toward her once another target to his affections has come along. She’s not fooled by his pretense that he’s just a victim of his own biological makeup, either, and not responsible for any of the collateral damage it may cause. She’s hip to his game and isn’t devastated by it, nor is she buying the whole “I can’t lie to you …” gambit that is all too common among cheaters, making her the bad guy if she doesn’t respect his “honesty”. Classic dick move on his part. Yet this song makes us snicker, rather than seethe, imbued as it is with a sense of the ridiculous. That’s the source of its charm.
In a roundabout way, that’s how “My Male Curiosity” lends an important perspective on being cheated on by a cad; that ultimately a man like that is always ridiculous. Time spent thinking about him years after he’s swanned off with his next conquest would be with a rueful shake of the head and ironic smile rather than the source of inflamed emotional scars. In this way, this song is less about the narrator, and more about the lover’s ability to see through his bullshit and come out the stronger on the other side. That’s the kind of classic musical theatre in which Kid Creole & The Coconuts uniquely excel in many of their songs. But it also has a real life application for us the listeners, too; that as smooth, sexy, and suave as they are, we shouldn’t be surprised when cads only ever take care of themselves at our expense. With that knowledge, and with the idea of how ridiculous they really are, it’s much easier to move on.
Kid Creole & The Coconuts is an active unit today. You can learn more about them and get the most recent news at Kidcreole.com.