As their exuberant band name suggests, Melbourne’s Bananagun have an infectiously bright outlook on the world. The quintet’s colourful offerings so far have brought an impulsive exoticism, merging vibrant psychedelia with Fela Kuti-inspired afrobeat. With this in mind, their debut album, ‘The True Story Of Bananagun’, promises rhythmic refuge in these stormy times.
Having started life as the solo project of bandleader Nick van Bakel, a wealth of talented musicians have since been brought in to help bring his bedroom creations to life. Album opener ‘Bang Go The Bongos’ asserts this notion immediately: a blend of jungle sounds, recorders, warm vocal harmonies and bongos (obviously), the jam drags you into a tropical climate as the band sing “there’s nothing special about me / just another apple on the tree”. ‘The Master’ keeps the party going, adding fuzzy bass and choppy Stone Roses-throwback guitars to the mix.
This record just doesn’t sit still — it’s as if Bananagun are trying to make each song more daring than the last. ‘People Talk Too Much’ is the first foray into bright Afrobeat, which could easily be a long-lost gem from the golden era of African music in the 70s and 80s. These aren’t easy influences to capture the spirit of sonically, but the band achieve this effortlessly with a rich and intense blend of instrumentation.
Part of the beauty of ‘The True Story Of Bananagun’ is that the album doesn’t overly concern itself with the outside world: the most thought-provoking moment comes on ‘Modern Day Problems’ where they sprightly sing “no communication, what a revelation / High-tech Macintosh, laptop slung across yawning / Why do anything? It can do anything for me.” For the most part, the album instead offers pure escapism — even straying into the ridiculous with ‘Mushroom Bomb’, in which the song title is repeated until, well, you can guess where it might have derived from. It’s a moment that channels the psych instrumentation of Woods and the warped vocal delivery on King Gizzard’s ‘Crumbling Castle’.
Elsewhere, interlude ‘Bird Up!’ offers a brief chance to cool off with muffled dialogue and tropical birdsong, paving the way for the shimmering and accessible ‘Out Of Reach’ which once again urges you to move with 70s melody and purpose. There’s a Brian Jonestown-level of obsession for the past throughout this record, yet Bananagun have very much channelled that into something of their very own.
Not only do the band successfully blend genres with ease, they thrillingly leap through whole musical movements from one note to the next. In a world where vintage and psych-infused sounds are just about everywhere you look (especially on Australian shores), Bananagun have boldly hammered their stamp on the genre at the first attempt.
Release date: June 26
Record label: Full Time Hobby