Livin’ In The Jungle is album number two for Boston six-piece Banshee. As a starting point, I could say garage rock/proto-punk: tough and raucous rock‘n’roll in the Sonics or Stooges tradition. But consider the fact that they’re a six-piece – more personnel than those early proto-punks thought necessary, and a whole lot more than the chart-topping 00’s revivalist duos. Those extra minds in pursuit of the same goal tend to bring extra intricacy to the sound.
On Livin’ In The Jungle, that takes the form of swirling, droning sitar, sax, and keys. Combined with hypnotic rhythms and plenty of extra percussion you get a big fat dose of psych. For further confirmation, check out the vivid colours and mad dreamscape on the album cover. Also note that, if the presence of a sax player in Banshee brings any R&B to the sound, it’s closer to the growl of the Saints’ Know Your Product than a Stax Records strut.
Another interesting element is a kind of exotica through a punk rock prism. The bird calls, the congas, the jungle visuals and lyrical imagery; they all fit the escapist sounds of decades gone by, but here it feels less contrived. Vocalist Nick noted in an interview that part of his creative drive is about raging against the ‘over-civilised world’; it’s more righteous fury than ersatz travel.
You’ll hear all these elements (and probably more) distilled in the first few songs:
A short intro, appropriately named Genesis, kicks off with a big fat burst of guitars, keys, and percussion. It fades into the sound of birds and assorted jungle critters, and then primal drums and chanted vocals seem to approach from a distance. The bass picks up the rhythm as it segues into The Law. The chant continues and a guitar lead howls. When the song really starts up, it’s a frenetic garage boogie with snarling call-and-response vocals. The sax riffs with the guitars. Throughout the entire racket, pounding drums and bass hold down the shuffle with iron will.
The guitar/sax assault jumps effortlessly from lockstep fuzzy riffage to howling cacophony and back, usually within the same song….
Another segue brings us into Dawn Of Man. The keys remind me briefly of Pink Floyd’s On The Run, before the band launches into a stately groove, and they’re soon in full mesmerising psych rock mode. Guitars, sitars, and keyboards weave around each other, along with an abundance of percussion, and ridiculously catchy vocals.
Thus the blueprint is set, and the album never stumbles from this point. The grooves range from the manic grinding garage rock of Livin’ In The Jungle to the slower, unrelenting pulse of Snake Charmer. The vocals chant and groan in the verses of The Atomic Flu, and snarl almost everywhere else. The guitar/sax assault jumps effortlessly from lockstep fuzzy riffage to howling cacophony and back, usually within the same song. The rhythm section is unwavering throughout.
There’s gang vocals, swirling wah freakouts, lots of percussion, and a palpable smell of sweat. The whole thing feels like a ritual: a summoning of primal rock’n’roll spirits. Play it loud so your neighbours can hear it.
Scribed by: Rob Bryant