Black Bananas

Rad Times Xpress IV

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When a band changes its name years into its existence, it usually implies a break with the past. Not so for Jennifer Herrema and crew, who go deeper into their own mythology on their first album as Black Bananas, Rad Times Xpress IV. The band's "new" name comes from a song off the 2007 album Western Xterminator, and this album title's initials hint that RTX aren't too far in their rear-view mirror. This set delivers many of RTX's classic poses, including the equally ferocious and hilarious poser putdown "My House"; the interstellar power ballad "Night Walker"; and blasé hippie-witch jams like "Earthquake." However, the band's name change isn't just semantics. Black Bananas suggests something trashy and organic at the same time, which is exactly what Rad Times Xpress IV delivers: a perfectly natural-sounding fusion of filthy electro beats and synths with preening guitars and attitude to spare, all given a big, glossy coating. The band's effortless knack for brilliantly dumb song titles, riffs, and melodies comes into its own on the album's midsection, where toothy synths and serrated riffs prove that Black Bananas excel at making music that bares its fangs and claws in an expression somewhere between a snarl and a smile. "Hot Stupid" is likely the only song that sounds equally inspired by Foreigner's "Hot Blooded" and Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue," while "Do It"'s bad mama-jama funk makes the perfect backdrop for Herrema's sullen diva turn: "I do what I want when I want/And I don't wanna do it." "Rad Times," meanwhile, could be a fever dream that escaped Paisley Park, its dense synth bass and guitar histrionics reflecting how much acts like Sleigh Bells learned from this band. Though Herrema's pop instincts come to the fore more than they have since, arguably, Royal Trux's final albums, the subversive bent her music has always had is still present and accounted for. Much of Rad Times Xpress IV is steeped in woozy sonic layers that lend even the catchiest songs here a foggy feel, whether it's "TV Trouble"'s stoned boogie or "Acid Song"'s soul-pop turned arena rock. "Overpass" is downright overwhelming, with pounding, Stooges-esque piano, blaring saxophone and more, like playing the most kickass part of every rock song at once. Despite this, Rad Times Xpress IV is some of Herrema's most cohesive music with any of her projects, and Black Bananas pull off the neat trick of sounding quintessential and like a rebirth at the same time.

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