Believe it or not, but Lunatic – Kongos’ sophomore release – isn’t as new as you might think. It was released independently under the Tokoloshe label in December 2012 and, after signing with the considerably more popular Epic Records, the band re-released it for a whole new audience to enjoy and consume this year. The question remains whether it was worth the re-release or whether the band should have kept themselves hidden in independent label obscurity. The answer, luckily, is the former. This album is a must-listen for fans of alternative rock.
The genre of alternative rock has sadly become synonymous with Emo love/break-up songs in recent times. With bands such as Nickelback and Lifehouse being somewhat renowned for these forays into rock, it isn’t all that surprising. It is, with a sigh of relief, that Kongos aren’t one of those bands. Their songs have a consistently strong rhythm section and a welcoming variety in melody and tone to boot. They’re the kind of songs you wouldn’t be embarrassed to play in your car or in your room. They’ve got meaning, sure, but they’ve also got a certain upbeat element about them that make you want to sing along and tap your foot to them.
What’s impressive is the band’s ability to form strong hooks in their songs. Come With Me opens up with an unexpected catchy accordion melody before the guitar and drums began flaring up and the singer launches into the chorus with “Oh, come with me now, I’m going to take you down”. Then, when everything seems to be going predictably, the guitarist pulls off an impressive solo halfway through. In terms of the band’s songcraft, they seem to imitate an age-old technique used by The Beatles where the songs starts with the chorus, making the song appear familiar to listeners despite them never having heard it before. Another example of this is evident in the seemingly hip-hop-inspired I Want To Know where the song’s title is repeated in a very catchy melodic fashion from the get-go. It makes the album more of an entertaining listen as opposed to something that is a pain to get through.
As mentioned earlier, the songs are helped by an effective rhythm section. Kids These Days begins with an opening drum fill before a snaking guitar line joins in the fun. Halfway through, the song surprises you with an impressive play of the accordion while joined by a screeching guitar line. This brings us onto the accordion itself, not the first instrument you think of when the genre of alternative rock comes to mind. Yet, it is used to full effectiveness in the band’s work and, in many ways, helps differentiate them from their fellow contemporaries. In the beginning of As We Are, the accordion is used as a fine aid to the emotions trying to be conveyed by the singer, acting as a leering ghost in the backing track. It provides an interesting, welcome flavour to proceedings and is played very, very well.
In fact, the record itself is done very, very well. If you haven’t heard of Kongos before, then you certainly will now. Boasting an array of hook-filled pop-rock songs and an impressive rhythm section to rival Imagine Dragons, Lunatic is a listen that is more than worth your time and attention. Bands of today, beware. Kongos are coming and they’ve got the firepower to boot.