There’s something happening in Melbourne right now. It’s a phenomenon Clash has explored at length, elucidating widely on the beat collectives, DJs, producers, and musicians blurring the lines between jazz, neo-soul, and psychedelia.
Bananagun are part of this spirit, but not quite of this sound. It’s as if a crew of crate-diggers have sought to replicate dusty vinyl vaults by abandoning their mixers, and picking up guitars – the cut ‘n’ paste philosophies are still there, but so too is sun-burned psychedelia, and gorgeous, ever-flowing songwriting.
Opener ‘Bang Go The Bongos’ is sheer Brasilia heaven, a kind of 21st century Os Mutantes grappling with the outer-philosophical possibilities that a fuzz pedal can offer. ‘The Master’ is an ultra-cool freakbeat monster, all library soundtrack grooves and neat touches of wah’d out guitar.
‘People Talk Too Much’, meanwhile, is the first appearance of a recurrent touchstone within Bananagun’s aural pantheon – the surging drive of afrobeat, and the way this percussive engine can power emphatically lysergic song creations.
‘Freak Machine’ fuses Funkadelic beats to ethereal harmonies, creating something that resembles Goat let loose in Stax studios in the process. ‘Bird Up!’ is a playful studio sketch, little more than drums and bird effects, leading into storming single – and 6Music favourite - ‘Out Of Reach’. Has a song ever fully encapsulated the promise of morning, the burgeoning potential of another day on God’s green Earth than this one? At once fully retro while also being hopefully out of time, it slides together different genres, different generations, to sculpt something completely life-affirming.
And it’s this sense of unashamed joy, and exuberant happiness, which makes Bananagun so vital. Take ‘She Now’ with its clanking off kilter psych-pop replete with ‘Revolver’ era George Harrison solos, or the flute-driven Baroque flourishes on ‘Perfect Stranger’. Take the taut, wiry guitar riffing on ‘Mushroom Bomb’ set against a rare burst of lyrical paranoia that comes shrouded in some of their most explicitly pop melodies.
Ending with the perfumed one-two of ‘Modern Day Problems’ and ‘Taking The Present For Granted’, this Melbourne group sound like a band out of time, slipping and sliding between countries and generations. Vivid, colourful, and distinct, 21st century ennui has scarcely sounded so intoxicating.
Words: Robin Murray
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