Bananagun - The True Story of Bananagun
5d ago
Over the course of just 40 minutes Bananagun takes us on an exciting, fuzzy, slightly experimental odyssey of late 60s/early 70s nostalgia, wrapped up in a way that only those in the internet age would be capable of collating.

Bananagun are a 5-piece, Melbourne based group led by Nick Van Bakel, who delve into an exotic blend of Afrobeat, 70s Jazz, Psychedelic Pop and all manner of minor influences that crop up on a more track to track basis. Van Bakel, as well as the main songwriter, plays guitar, trumpet, flute, harpsichord, percussion and sings. Jack Crook plays guitar and sings,
Charlotte Tobin performs percussion, Jimi Dregg plays Drums and Josh Dans rounds the group up with Bass. 3 other people are credited as performing on the album, Pierce Morton, Miles Bedford and Zoe Fox add alto sax, tenor sax and vocals respectively.

The True Story... begins with Bang Go the Bongos, a song that opens slowly by introducing many of the records core components, from its odd percussion to the vocal harmonies, but most prominently the fuzzy guitar. The track runs a bit like late era Simon & Garfunkel meets the Beach Boys psychedelic side, but with extra distortion.
The Master the continues with the Beach Boys harmonies, but this time over much fuzzier guitar and harder, more technical drum playing. The bass led bridge 2 minutes in is a great way to break up the song a little before we get a proper guitar solo, all the while syncopated, percussive, Afrobeat-like guitar runs are used in the background.
People Talk To Much is probably my favourite song on the record, at 6 1/2 minutes it's easily the longest cut here and its long intro that builds layers with a proper brass section gives it a real jam band vibe. The repeated vocal refrain of:

"Money talks to people
People talk too much"

Is wonderfully reminiscent of Fela Kuti's style of Afrobeat, especially as it is done in a call and response style. The Kuti-isms continue through the guitar work and the horns.
Freak Machine reminds me of early Pink Floyd, but with less eccentricity and more rhythm. Vocal harmonies designed to leave you unsure of what's going on, but enough flare and fun to keep the song and its listener grounded.
We then get the odd psychedelic bird noise sampling of Bird Up! 11/2 minutes that aren't really necessary...

Out of Reach proves to be one of the easiest songs to get into and also a track with the fewest influences worn on its sleeve. A great little Pop song that makes use of the flute as part of its bridges. While never straying from the sounds of the record, it ends up feeling unique and relatively modern and somehow makes its 5 minute runtime feel perfectly natural for the radio.
The jam band feel returns on She Now, which also brings a Folk Rock vibe once again reminding me of S&G, but mixed with the Beatles. The erratic outro is a welcome surprise and really brings the energy up, just when the song had started to feel like it was dragging a little.

Perfect Stranger then mixes things up with a noticeable Bossa Nova vibe. The harpsichord in the background adds a lovely light and airy feeling to the track, that is then continued through the flute and harmonics on the guitar.
Mushroom Bomb reminding me of Tame Impala as well as many 60s Psychedelia acts. The John Lennon-esque vocals certainly don't dissuade any Beatles references. Gladly the the drums do a great job of making the verses more unique and interesting and the outro adds a splendid layer of dreamy psychedelia that just about wins me over.
The Lennon vocals then continues into the Taxman copy Modern Day Problems. While a little derogatory, it's still a great track, with a fantastic solo and wonderful fuzzed out dream-like tone throughout. The vocal melodies here are also some of the strongest throughout the album, helping the song become an easy standout.
Taking the Present for Granted returns to a Bossa Nova/MPB feel with its more peculiar percussive elements and slightly off-beat rhythms. A lighter more mid-tempo song, that lets the listener wind down a little before deciding to play the album again.

While I've been a little mean to The True Story... as it suffers when it lets its influences become the focal point of each track rather than the songwriting or the instrumentation. It is a fun record, with excellent production and a wonderful array of influences, that many people would appreciate being brought together like this.

Favourites: The Master, People Talk Too Much, Out of Reach, She Now, Perfect Strangers, Modern Problems
Least Favs: Bird Up!
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