The debut full length from Melbourne, Australia based Bananagun is an excitingly intoxicating mix of genres. Taking inspiration from such wide-ranging influences as afro-funk, retro soul, exotica jazz, folk, rock and garage punk The True Story of Bananagum keeps listeners guessing from moment to moment as the rich sounds blend into delicious tropical cocktails with serious bite.
Opener “Bang Go The Bongos” lays down the lithe groove and amps up the fuzz guitar as the band (Nick Van Bakel – guitar, voice, flute, trumpet, harpsichord, percussion Jack Crook – guitar, voice Charlotte Tobin – percussion Josh Dans – bass guitar Jimi Gregg – drums Pierce Morton – alto saxophone Miles Bedford – tenor saxophone Zoe Fox – voice) sets the overall tone that recalls the whimsical sounds of Martin Denny mixed with The Monks.
Gregg’s drums lead the way as the whole group revs up the energy for “The Master”, an awesome ear-popping freak-out which keeps raising the stakes as it progresses. “People Who Talk Too Much” takes a page directly out of Fela Kuti’s playbook with singing from Fox, horn blasts, and a circular never-ending bass/drum afro-beat.
The sixties psychedelic adventure is everywhere on the album as the rollicking “Freak Machine” pulls in that eras rock adding rich horn lines while “She Now” which uses a folk base before climbing towards a huge supersonic tripped out finale. Those LSD-like effects also work on the weirder style of “Mushroom Bomb” which would fit snugly on any of The Claypool Lennon Delirium’s releases as the tune slams into “Modern Day Problems” which plays like a revved-up version of The Beatles “Taxman”.
One of the strongest songs on an album filled with them is “Out of Reach”, recalling Jorge Ben’s classic Africa/Brasil era. The tune mixes smooth soul, flute and congas while funk flows underneath as gorgeous sax work enters towards the end as the drifting track feels as if it could flow on forever.
There are very few critiques to be found outside of the vocals working predominantly as another sound in the mix without really standing proudly lyrically and the overdone harpsichord in “Perfect Stranger”. However, these are all minor issues as the album is a winner and the group ends on a high note with the blissful orchestral pop of “Taking The Present For Granted”.
The True Story of Bananagun is one of the most inspiring debut releases of 2020 as a host of sounds infuse the musical spirit of these cosmic adventurers resulting in a dynamite and diverse record.