The Live EP from Banana Gun

Photo by Mr Anathema Photography

Quick on the heels of the release of their magnificent album The Elephant In The Room early last summer, Banana Gun has released an  EP of their live efforts since that time. With the combination of live tracks that include both originals and covers, as well as one sacred studio track that previews a bit of love from the next full length album, this is one hell of a package. Throughout all six performances on this modest EP, Banana Gun shows that they are an amazing band filled with infinite possibilities and a definite stylistic sound, they are defining themselves, nay, strengthening themselves and this is the band at the top of their game at this moment in time. I have a feeling this is only a prophetic vision of what  is to come in the near future, only the  crest of this wave that will be superseded by the next.

With the introduction by local luminary and our favorite morning radio personailty Beef Vegan, the record kicks off with an explosion in the form of a searing rendition of “Papercuts”—and if you ask me it blows the studio version away, but, I’m quite fond of the Banana Gun live experience and this carries that energy perfectly. The searing guitar work that sets the entire EP on fire at the start is almost to much for me to bear–and I remember it, I was at that show and it just gives me goddamn shivers every time. Overwhelming, unwieldy and simply goddamn great rock’n'roll straight through. All that  and Kyle’s sax work is unbelievable, in fact, the whole damn band is here at there freaking peak and everyone is giving  their all–Ian’s drums pounding out the beat everyones hips are shaking to, Ross’ basswork keeping that groove right along while Nic and Kevin’s guitars duel and one of the finest vocal performances from the latter is documented on record. That, my friends, is a hell of start to anything.

“Too Much Woman,” the lead track from their first album hits next and it’s hard to believe it’s the same song that from that record because once more its color shines well beyond the studio version—and this brings the point that maybe it was perfectly necessary for Banana Gun to release a live record, it’s difficult to not argue that they are simply a magnificent live band and this proves it, as if their hundreds of show haven’t to the adoring ears of their fans. Again the guitar comes right out, up front and in your face–I sometimes hear people referring to Banana Gun in line with strange genres I simply don’t associate them with and this EP should put to rest any idea that these guys aren’t a sizzling rock number. Certainly, they incorporate elements of many genres, but I think the  lasting impression of the amazing “Light Out” has left listeners a bit confused about Banana Gun’s identity. Now I love “Light Out”, it was the song that hooked me into this band–but, it’s not what kept me coming back. What kept me coming back is exactly what is found in the EP…period.

Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” follows and if possible, it works out far sexier than the originator whose specialty was belting out songs that were, in essence, instant panty remover. This is also a classic recording, at the Sail Inn, where when a train goes by Kevin declares “Hey, fuck you train” and somehow it’s all fitting.  Another classic from their first record is “Sometimes” and here it shines spectacularly, but it proves their growth through the years and the sharpness of the talent they’ve honed. I’ve thought this many times at their shows and the two tracks on this album reinforce this, but I would love to hear the first album recorded again by Banana Gun 2013–or an entire live album of that album, which may serve it better. I love that album, but the performances they draw from it now make the recordings sound like chalk drawings must look to three dimensional cartoons. “Sometimes” only needs a gospel choir backing it to be a freaking the all out revival the organ work here suggests–simply brilliant.

Of the live tracks, “Testimonial” has to be my favorite, mainly because it’s insane, but also because it’s a cover of another love of mine The Sugar Thieves and Mikel Lander makes a few cents every time it’s played, after all—amazing. I have heard this song performed by four different artists, if I’m not mistaken and at the release show for this EP I got to hear it performed by The Sugar Thieves AND Banana Gun and there was no sense in any capacity that the repetition was unwelcome. Also, Banana Gun really make this their own, so much so that when I first heard it I didn’t even recognize it as a local cover of a song that I already loved by another band. The finale is the studio number, a doo-wop surprise in the form of “Cats & Dogs”—much in the vein of other songs of theirs that seem out of character, yet uniquely their own, this is just a taste of the next album and it seriously whets the appetite for another full length Banana Gun. I can’t love it enough…no, seriously, I know it’s just a song, but this has been a monumentally amazing live number for a bit and to hear it committed flawlessly in the studio, well, hell…it’s just a tease of what await us in, what I hope is, the near future.

The great thing is that at Noon on Saturday, Banana Gun kicks off day two of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival on the Main stage and they will finish the entire day by providing the entertainment at the after party at the newly opened Last Exit Live. You have two, yes two, chances to catch this amazing band in one day this weekend. I would advise you take advantage of it.