Too often, rock bands seem content to settle for cool genre tags instead of flying their freak flags high. Fortunately, one can always count on Royal Trux co-founder Jennifer Herrema to run something colorful, half-crazy and completely pledge-worthy up a musical pole.
Herrema’s latest project is Black Bananas, a hallucinatory blend of funk, ’80s synth-pop and psychedelic rock. The band’s debut album, Rad Times Xpress IV, is unlike anything you’ve heard, and if there’s a “gateway” album to a spiraling-into-life’s-gutter drug trip, this is it.
"TV Trouble," with its goofy Plasticine bass line, sounds like it was liberated from Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports-era secret demo reel, and then run through a gantlet of fuzz guitars. “Hot Stupid,” a hilariously overdriven AC/DC-meets-Funkadelic celebration of American Neanderthalism you’ll never get sick of spinning, is novel and invigorating. The Recycler-grade ZZ Top pastiche “Foxy Playground” is so absolutely perfect for a driving-to-California iPod mix that the Golden State should license the song for tourist ads.
I guess the best way to explain Rad is as a radical re-examination and aggressive recombination of commonly cast-off musical styles—blaxploitation scores, heavy-metal video-game themes, Quaalude-inspired cop-show soundtracks, etc. I have no idea if Black Bananas can pull off their dreamy studio clamor live, but now’s our chance to find out.