Sunday, March 18, 2018

Banzai Cliff- Mines Teenage Journals on The Lo-Fi Moody Punk Pop on "Hypothetical Love"

When the first track Too Young To Die from Banzai Cliff's album "Hypothetical Love" erupts you feel the rush of a 1972 supercharged Chevelle SS barreling down a Brooklyn neighborhood (or how you imagine that would be) and all the while the Ramones are blaring out of the big knobbed radio. The track has that big retro Phil Spector-ish 60's wall of sound.  Roshambo perfectly blends surfy punk sounds and makes you feel high if you listen to it and watch surf videos especially for me as I was a certified surf rat all throughout high school. I felt the Ramone's chugging in the track Man Of God.

A lot of the retro sound on this album has to do not only the tortured melodies but the tortured yelp wail of Nicky Koch who is the man behind Banzai Cliff and for Hypothetical Love specifically he has mined his teenage journals for these personal songs. In Danielle he sings of losing his virginity while listening to Modest Mouse. The lo-fi sounds feeling deliciously garage rockish and steps right into tempos more befitting of 60's girl groups and it all works so well because Koch knows how to let his songs breathe when they have to. In Strange Things Are Afoot (which made me think a bit of the Cure's Close To Me) Koch infuses some darker vocal tones in the dance.

If Banzai Cliff is creating a teen motif then it feels like it might be a unique universe that at once feels Americana (80's through a 60's British filter) and if this is the case then it has to have a high school dance song and that song would be Sorta Stupid. It is the perfect wanna fall in love slow dance of a song full of close lips and hushed breaths sprinkled with disco ball lighting. The refrain "Sometime love just makes you sorta stupid" is, will always, be true. I really love this song. The track Boy Afraid burst with hyper spurts of lyrics that are mournfully beautiful. I thought of the 2008 song Lust for Life by Girls who were also inspired by sounds of the 50's, 60's, and 70's. In Boy Afraid all the insecurities that feel as deep as a hole to China when you are a teen are fully exposed. I love the line "I think I'm gonna reign it in, I don't feel comfortable in my own skin, thank god for the small talk, baby... I'll try to keep up."

While just released on March of 2018, this body of work was recorded in the winter of 2016 at Caveboy Studios in Philadephia, PA. All songs written and arranged by Koch, his creative accomplice is multi-instrumentalist David Ulrich who recorded, mixed, produced as well as played guitars, drums, bass, background vocals, percussion, drum machine, bells and whistles. Nicky Koch besides supplying the songs, those journals and poignant lead vox played guitar and synth

The last track Everything is Asinine feels like those teenage times when the whole world is imploding and you hate everything except that one girl or boy who is all that makes live bearable. Koch says his music is lo-fi pop about fucking up and it is but in between the dirty guitar lines and introspective prose exist all the bloody bruises that end up making us who we are and, yes, that one girl or boy (and other loved ones) who makes it all worth it.

Robb Donker

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