King Kong

Buncha Beans

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For some bands, sticking to the same sound for the better part of two decades might be a sign of musical stagnancy. For King Kong, it's more a case of not messing with a good thing. Aside from 2002's spacy electronic epic The Big Bang, Ethan Buckler and company haven't changed their sound or goals much since the late '80s, opting instead to make albums that are high on quirky concepts and surprisingly danceable grooves and low on pretension. Buncha Beans, King Kong's first album in five years, continues down this well-worn path, serving up more friendly, literate oddities without ever seeming too predictable. Buckler's beyond-laconic drawl of a voice still draws comparisons to Fred Schneider or Calvin Johnson, and the band's jaunty rhythms still add the perfect sardonic twist to his voice and lyrics. This time, Buckler uses the theme of man versus nature and rough-around-the-edges rock to tie his stories together, whether it's "Bug Make"'s war between humans and cockroaches, the political protest of "Bulldozers," or "Sue Na Mi"'s sentient, surfer-hating storms. Even though "Cirque de Blase" veers away from Buncha Beans' immediate motifs, the clever goofiness of its title sums up the album's (and the band's) modus operandi perfectly. After all this time, King Kong are still an acquired taste, but for those who get the band's purposefully zany vibe, this album is a welcome return.

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