Back With a Bang
You think you know what you're in for within the first 20 seconds of the opening song, "Bulldozers," from King Kong's latest release, Buncha Beans. Ethan Buckler's deadpan vocals? Check. Catchy guitar riff? Check. The whiff of some kind of theme? You got it. But when Buckler dares to rhyme "a grandpa and a granny" with "flatulating fannies," you get the idea that this road ain't quite a straight one.
Louisville product King Kong made a name for itself years ago, garnering a heap of local praise and some national notoriety. After a lengthy, self-imposed hiatus, the band is back and they're back with a vengeance. Sounding like they haven't missed a beat in their time off, King Kong dishes up entertaining ironic rock that is part Surfaris, part B-52s and part cheese.
Buckler's singing is the most prominent part of King Kong's persona. He's a cross between the smooth speak of Cake's John McRea and the monotone of Fred Schneider (only not nearly as annoying). He delivers the lines of deliciously absurd songs like "Cirque du Blasť" as if he were ordering a pizza.
But don't mistake the tone for apathy; King Kong's music is far from careless. Their danceable surf-rock style is inspirational in its intelligence and wit, evoking the obtuse observations of bands like Presidents of the USA. Buncha Beans is music to which you'll start out dancing and end up laughing your butt off.
King Kong's previous albums were known for having a theme threaded through their songs and those looking for the same kind of thing on Buncha Beans will find it in the zoological quality of the songs. Eagles and caribou roam on "Bulldozers," "Hungry Tiger" chronicles a tragic feline-canine relationship and "Ride the Funky Mule" is ... well, you just gotta hear it. I can only imagine the dance craze it could spawn.
While the quality of the songs on Buncha Beans is consistent all the way through, it's the little Easter eggs that make it more enjoyable, like the electronica rhythm that closes out "Bug Make," or the litany of mafia monikers in "Tough Guys" (my favorite is "Sloped Forehead Ted"). There's enough left-of-center musings (man vs. killer wave in "Sue Na Mi") and creative rhyming ("a microwave burrito" and "if you have to pee, go") to prove that King Kong, while evoking similarities to other artists, is beyond comparison.