Sunday 1 July 2012

Kongos - Lunatic

Album review by KevW

South African-born singer-songwriter John Kongos will be mainly remembered for his brace of top ten hits in the UK (including 'He's Gonna Step On You', covered almost twenty years later by Happy Mondays as 'Step On'), but in South Africa and on continental Europe he enjoyed more widespread success. His four sons, having spent their time growing up split between London and South Africa (they're now based in the US), would have been open to a the different cultures of both countries, and also their father's eclectic, genre-hopping music. That's certainly the impression you get from this, their second album as Kongos.

Like fellow family band Kings Of Leon, Kongos walk the tightrope between being a decent enough rock band and a stadium-engineered sales machine. Unlike the Followils, the music on 'Lunatic' isn't a straightforward update of southern-fried rock. This album is eyeing a similar target, but its route there is a touch more eclectic. Imagine Yeasayer playing Bon Jovi songs and you won't be too wide of the mark. It's a shame really because Kongos have some good tracks. 'I'm Only Joking' and 'This Time I Won't Forget' could both really shine. Unfortunately they veer just that bit too close to sound of US pop/rock titans such as Train or Goo Goo Dolls.

It's almost as if Kongos are trapped, unable to decide whether to be experimental and make a sound that's distinctly their own, or grab some of the filthy lucre that the likes of Phantom Planet get for soundtracking teen friendly dramas such as The O.C. At the moment the songs aren't quite commercial enough for that, but a little too earnest for more left-field tastes. There are a few nice moments, particularly the stomping 'Hey I Don't Know' and 'Come With Me Now' which recall their Dad's work, but it's unlikely they'll repeat his UK chart success with this record. Not that they'll care a jot, because, like their old man, they're already shifting plenty of units abroad.

Kongos' website

'Lunatic' will be available on July 24th via Tokoloshe Records

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