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King Kong - Buncha Beans

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Artist: King Kong

Album: Buncha Beans

Label: Drag City

Review date: May. 14, 2007

King Kong has plied its awkwardly grooving tunes for decades now, entwined with the Louisville indie scene without resembling the other parts of it. They're the kind of band that regularly pops up as the antidote to the brooding and groundbreaking bands around them - think of Superchunk and Southern Culture on the Skids, or Screaming Trees and Beat Happening. They've got their ties (Will Oldham produces here), but they fit in by deflating the ambitions of their buddies.

After a run of ludicrous concept albums about yaks and space travel and farmers, Buncha Beans finds them dawdling through a buncha disconnected ditties. There's traces of disgust with American selfishness, faint concern about climate change, but it's such a goof it's hard to discern a theme. They hang tight to Southern party band mode - swamp rock chords and soul quips and bubbly bass. Ethan Buckler's monotone rhymes pile up nicely. It's his way with words that sustains interest through their sometimes successful attempts at being annoying.

There's only a brief bit with a female foil, a contrast Buckler's used in the past to give relief from his talk-singing (just like Beat Happening, just like B-52s). But his constant presence doesn't overwhelm the proceedings. On the topic of squishing bugs we get, "He takes a U, he saw my shoe, now he's just another spot of goo in the stall." Buckler eeks out a bit of sympathy, some more mid-line rhymes, and a total of two verses. The remaining four minutes are paleface disco that's satisfying and more intricate than the opening would seem to allow.

The female foil shows up for "Tough Guys," as he recounts street fights and mangled faces. After the third time, when the backing breaks down to spare major chords and he's describing "slope head Ted," you realize this is sort of thing Lou Reed would take very seriously. Likewise, we get "Some are black, some are white, some are yellow": it's the beans of the title track. He runs with the metaphor, singing "They form a tribe, then a state, so they know who to love..." A single smirk and it would fall apart, but he restrains himself.

In fact, that's pretty much the formula throughout Buncha Beans. Can music be defiantly tame? King Kong's tunes constantly suggests something bigger, funkier, more artistic. But rather than make a huge asses of themselves, they stick to a comfort zone that's unnerving for the rest of us.

By Ben Donnelly

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