The Bongos

Drums Along the Hudson

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The Bongos were one of the most distinctive bands to come out of the briefly bustling Hoboken pop scene in the early '80s -- Richard Barone's songs were gloriously hooky, but also forcefully propulsive enough to live up to the group's name (aided immeasurably by Rob Norris' agile bass and Frank Giannini's precise drumming), and Barone's guitar work managed to be melodic and oblique at the same time, carrying the tune while allowing room for his own sonic interjections, which could be noisy or richly smooth at will. The Bongos were different enough from their contemporaries that Drums Along the Hudson has dated remarkable little since it was released in 1982, sounding less like "new wave" than a simply timeless example of smart, edgy pop. The joyous charge of the opening cut, "In the Congo," is pure glorious sugar rush, "The Bulrushes" is fraught with seductive mystery, "Three Wise Men" very nearly beats the Feelies at their own high-tension game, and "Glow in the Dark" is one of the most charmingly off-kilter love songs ever. (Norris' anti-television diatribe "Video Eyes" fares somewhat less well than the other tunes, but there's no arguing it's still timely.) Add in a T. Rex cover that's sensuous and almost funky and you get a minor masterpiece from the era of the skinny tie that's still bracing stuff today.

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