Published Jun 24, 2020What started out as the brainchild of Australian multi-instrumentalist Nick van Bakel has grown into a quintet, and with the recent release of two singles, "Do Yeah" and "Out of Reach," they've made quite the name for themselves, and what a name it is: Bananagun — oddly threatening yet disarmingly absurd. With a name like that, it's pretty clear this group is nonchalant about most things, preferring good-natured fun over taking themselves too seriously any day of the week. And that's exactly what their music sounds like.
More than just their debut record, The True Story of Bananagun serves as an introduction to the group's first venture into writing and recording as a complete five-piece band. Their songs progress with a jazzy instrumental structure, moving with an urgent vibrancy that never lets up across the 11-track LP, with the exception of "Bird Up!," a 90-second cut of exotic bird calls mixed with a bongo beat that serves as an interlude for the halfway point of the record.
Much of the sound and aesthetic behind The True Story of Bananagun feels like it's out of time, like a lost album from the '60s or '70s unearthed from a time capsule, or from an eclectic vinyl collection hidden away in an elderly hippie's dusty attic.
Drenched in '60s psychedelia, "The Master" and "Mushroom Bomb" evoke images of colourful kaleidoscopic patterns spinning in one's mind with bouncy drum beats, slick guitar licks and fine-tuned bass lines. The funkadelic and soulful "Out of Reach" folds the past into the present, blending the genres with plenty of hooks, and swooping, sun-faded vocal melodies. While the sunshine-laden and tropical sounds of "People Talk Too Much" borrows from Afrobeat and exotica, specifically drawing inspiration from Fela Kuti.
With long, winding instrumental passages, Bananagun isn't afraid to let the music do the talking. The Aussie bunch throw everything — bongos, horns, saxophones, flutes — and the kitchen sink at the wall and it all sticks. That said, the lyrics are by no means thoughtless, as they adequately broach subjects including breakups ("Out of Reach"); not comparing yourself to others ("The Master"); gender identity and the importance of being recognized ("She Now"); staying grounded in the present and feeling the truth of the moment while it lasts ("Taking the Present for Granted"). From the starting gate to the finish line, The True Story of Bananagun is a genuine work of delight to listen to in all of its funky, jazzy, psyched-out glory. (Full Time Hobby)