When Boy Azooga dropped ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ last year, people sat up and listened. It’s a total firecracker, with its mammoth riffs and splashy harmonies, all punctuated by stomping sleigh-bells. It’s the kind of accomplished song that comes from a group with years of experience, and which you play on repeat for days – because it’s just that good. Since then, the Cardiff indie outfit’s been all over radio playlists and filling spaces in ‘ones to watch’ lists, and now the months of hype has culminated in the release of their debut, ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ Does is live up to build-up? Absolutely.
The Svengali behind Boy Azooga is Davey Newington, whose rich and diverse musical upbringing shines through on the album he solely wrote and recorded (he performs and now records with pals Daf Davies, Dylan Morgan and Sam Barnes). His parents played in the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales, his grandfather played drums for the Royal Marines, and he enjoyed a stint playing drums as part of Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon covers band. The influences on ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’, then, were always going to be varied. It’s this amalgamation genres and instrumentation that makes it such an exciting listen.
The record swings effortlessly from the cantering, disco-rock of ‘Loner Boogie’ to the Daft Punk-infused ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’, before sauntering into the movie-ready respite of ‘Walking Thompson’s Park’. Even as ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ traverses several different genres, and the instrumentation swells and contracts, Newington ensures the record feels more like one continuous entity than a collection of disjointed songs. Highlights come in the form of the crunchy, kaleidoscopic whirs of ‘Losers In The Tomb’, which explodes into a huge churning chorus, and the laid-back psychedelia of the brightly buoyant ‘Jerry’ (which features Newington’s dad playing violin). Both radio-ready earworms. Really, though, within 35 succinct minutes, Boy Azooga don’t hit one bum note.
Bright, exciting and full of effortlessly intelligent songwriting, ‘1, 2, Kung Fu!’ is an absolute joy to listen to. Wickedly fun, and made to be played on festival stages this summer, it’s short glimpse into the musical landscape of Newington’s mind – and one that we’re pretty bloody glad he shared.