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Buncha Beans - King Kong

Released on Drag City, 3/30/07

On a predictably foggy Saturday night in San Francisco I ventured to the Hemlock tavern. The mission at hand was to see King Kong perform from their album Buncha Beans as part of San Francisco’s Mission Creek Music Festival. I had hopes that seeing an intimate performance would deliver a shock of vitality and provide a different perspective to what had been a lukewarm listening session of their CD.

Perhaps it was the disgruntled doorman who made a massive dispute of my +1, or the poor acoustics in the Hemlock's tiny back room, but I found myself rather irked, not the best mood to listen to music that I already was on the fence about.

One has to admit, however, that King Kong has had some staying power; they’ve been making music since the late 80s. The band consists of formal Slint member, Ethan Buckler (keyboard and vocals), Willie Maclean (bass guitar), Amy Partin Ritchie (vocals), Heather Floyd (trumpet), and Peter Townsend (drums). Hailing from Louisville Kentucky, King Kong has an audible southern twang and sounds like what a humid, sleepy afternoon on a porch drinking Bourbon might feel like; no epiphanies to be had, no analyzing necessary, no emotional chords, just simple music that’s easy to unwind too.

At the Hemlock, I myself was a few bourbons deep by the time King Kong got on stage. Buckler’s first impression on me was a weird one, wearing shockingly orange pants, he quickly settled into his steadfast style of singing, which is not singing; he talks through his songs in a monotone voice that’s reminiscent of Calvin Johnston.

Buncha Beans is a buncha songs about Animals. At first you might think you're listening to a soundtrack from "Sesame Street" or Animal Planet. There’s a song about animals at the zoo, another about monkey business, and a nice little vignette called “Bug Make”, that’s all about squashing a cockroach. Then there is a curious song called “Freak off you” with lovely lyrics like these:

Don’t be scared. I’m not stalker
I’m not a smooth talker
I’m a little bit awkward
I just want to levitate
Above your flaming pyre
To immolate
In your sexy fire


By the end of the evening a good time was had by all -- the tiny room had gotten balmy due to the crowd of hipsters who swayed and rocked their rumps as King Kong delivered a fun performance.

A little fun, and relief is ultimately all Buncha Beans aims to achieve. Although Ethan Buckler can at times sound lethargic and unoriginal. Taking risks is not what Buncha Beans is all about; they stick to their comfortable zone with their deep fried, surfy, bouncy, party music that is anything but serious.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars