This new record by Bananagun seems to be custom-made for a world slowly emerging from lockdown.
Their music, which combines and synthesises strands of the sunniest, most uplifting genres ever created (psychedelia, tropicalia, afrobeat, freakbeat, acid-folk, soul and jazz), is neither unique, nor entirely original, but it is completely joyous and relentlessly optimistic. It’s also undeniably fun.
Across this kaleidoscopic set, you get a full tasting menu of delicious sonic delights. The opener, “Bang Go the Bongs”, is a squelchy, rickety psych-pop slice with wah-wah guitars and ah-ah backing vocals. “The Master” sounds like early Pink Floyd mixed with The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing desert funk. “Freak Machine” leans harder into those same sounds, but finds space to add blaring horn lines to the gently bubbling gumbo.
“People Talk too Much” runs a Fela Kuti rubbery groove into infinity, while “Mushroom Bomb” and “Modern Day Problems” both borrow heavily from mid-period Beatles. These influences are
The album highlight, “Out of Reach” (influenced by the Can album of the same name?), is a perfect culmination of what the band strive to achieve on the whole record. It’s (slightly) more restrained than the chaotic songs happening around it, and it achieves a measure of smoothness. An immensely beautiful saxophone line just wanders into the track as it reaches its climax, and makes for a surprising, rewarding treat.
The only real criticism you could level at this album are that it’s a draining experience to be listening to music this all-consuming, this relentless and insistent. There’s simply no let up from the first second until the last. The best bands that operate in this zone (Goat, Woods, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard) use dynamics and light and shade to help spread the intensity across their records. Bananagun, to their (albeit slight) detriment, just go hell bent for leather from the first second of the record.
That aside, this is a warming, rewarding album that grows with each listen, blossoming and unfurling in front of you. If you can get past the intensity, and see through to the glowing heart at the centre of this record, it’ll keep you coming back again and again.