Artist: Black Bananas
Album: Rad Times Xpress IV
Label: Drag City
Common intuition may keep you from eating that banana that’s turned black sitting on your counter, but in fact there are many uses for a black banana, even health benefits. So the question now becomes what do we do with Jennifer Herrema’s new band Black Bananas? If you’re a fan of her previous outfits Royal Trux or RTX, while saying a lot about your musical listening lifestyle, it says that you like listening to music that’s not conducive to dinner parties or dancing. Now it’s quite possible to listen to any of those bands while eating, and while you’re at it you can try dance to it, but you may have trouble convincing other people to do it with you. With Black Bananas’ debut Rad Time Xpress IV you will be able to dance it, as it replaces the off key feedback of guitars with synthesizer grooves that could make this album the most accessible one that Herrema has been a part of.
Now let’s back it up a moment because before we start comparing Jennifer with Lady Gaga you should know that you probably won’t like any of these songs when you first hear them. That’s almost been par for the course for anything Royal Trux has done, so it seems that Herrema has got it down to an art form. The first single “Rad Times” showcases the core direction of this band to a younger, hipper sound. You’d almost forget that this is coming from a woman who’s been making music since 1988, and not 2008. Does that give it a little more credibility? Hard to say, but after multiple listens, what you do hear is a deliberate musical direction which usually comes from experience.
The best song on the album is probably “TV Trouble”, and I won’t be surprised if that’s the second single. With that song as your door opening, you then start to hear the rest of the songs in a new light with diverse instrumentation and structure. It’s a little disconcerting though to hear Herrema’s voice auto-tuned in “Hot Stupid”, but her voice is distorted throughout the album, so it’s hard to criticize that, but it’s got to the point now that my intestines start to curdle whenever I do hear auto-tune. So if you can get through a first listen of the album, you’ll have a lot to digest. You probably won’t like it, but if you have the patience you could be in for a cool auditory treat.
– Michael Unger