A Hard Rocking Love Affair: Banana Gun releases Love.Instinct

I  know I’ve complained about the lack of rock’n'roll in this city before, but my complaints stop here. Banana Gun has somehow released one of the most compelling rock records of the entire  year.  Yes, there is something  in the combination of Ian Breslin on Drums, Kevin Loyd on Vocals and Guitar, Nic Dehaan on  Guitar and vocals, Ross Troost on Bass and  Kyle Scarborough on Sax and vocals, but together, there is magic here. There is also a hell of a lot of rock. It’s not a coincidence that Banana Gun is already one of my favorite bands around town, if you give them a listen live, you’ll understand immediately. Upon the release of their newest album Love.Instinct they have revealed themselves as something of a hard rocking dynamo. A machine as capable of tender entrapments as they are of epic rock anthems, shortly said, Banana Gun has stepped up their game.

For their third full length album Banana Gun recorded with Curtis Grippe at STEM Recording and they did it the old fashioned way, they recorded it live in the studio. Relying on perfect takes for each song, the effect is enlivening to say the very least. Troost even commented that he “never wants to record an album any other way” after this experience. Additionally recording live in the studio really adds an extra energy to the band’s sound, it feels more agressive, more raw. While The Elephant In The Room was a technical masterpiece, Love.Instinct has a warmth, a rough edged danger about it. It’s also more representative of their live show and the stage presence they have when you catch them at The Sail Inn headlining on a Friday or Saturday night.

Beginning with a feedback intro and the squelch of a guitar plugging in, the album kicks it right out of the starting gate with the ever popular “Got Time.” Loyd’s voice has never sounded better and in the year and a half since their last full length, it’s gained more depth, no doubt due to tirelessly playing live. The band sounds better than ever in every aspect and that becomes clear in just the first song–the drums are pounding, the sax is insane and the guitars are incendiary. This song is always a fan favorite at their shows and the recording here actually does it justice. One suggestion, this album is meant to be played LOUD for maximum enjoyment. This will lead to a much more fulfilling audio experience. “Punk Funk” follows perfectly in its wake and from beginning to end it is a locomotive propelled rocker and it has the priceless line “We can dance all night, we can fuck all day”, which they may want to edit for radio airplay, because it is single worthy and the pace is brilliant and furious, with Scarborough’s sax going overtime.

It seems fitting that a band called Banana Gun would have a song called “Dong” and now they do, but mot really, since the time I heard the album and its release it has become their first single named “Mirror, Mirror.” It’s a slow, sexy , seductive number, but not like a ballad, more like a sultry slow burner. And it has an infectious lyrical hook that will remain in your mind for days. At this point, three songs in it truly becomes apparent that the entire band has brought their A-Game to this particular platter. The guitar voodoo of Loyd and Dehaan, the rhythm section of  Troost and Breslin and of course that amazing sax–all five members have never sounded better. “Don’t Gimme No” is another scorching instant classic and at this point in the album it might occur to the listener that the pace has raged unabated. The cleverly titled “Mary I Wanna’” is the one song on the album that features the beloved banjo their fans seem so fond of and it’s pretty brilliant it is also one of the better showcases for Loyd’s vocals and I could see this getting some serious airplay.

A re-recorded version of “Cats & Dogs” is up next and the contrast between this version and the one that appeared on the Live EP last year is quite striking, perhaps because they’ve played it a hundred times since then, or perhaps it could be further attributed to the recording process. Whereas I liked the version on the EP, I absolutely love this longer  version and it’s one of two songs that could possibly qualify as a ballad on this album, without sacrificing any of the high energy pacing.  Also, it must be said that Scarborough’s sax work here shines like pure audio gold. Meanwhile, Breslin gets the spotlight at the start of “Broken Arm” with a thunderous drum opening, that comes off as slightly tribal. According to Troost this was a difficult track in the planning stages and how they wanted to record it, and then they nailed it on take two.  It’s one of my favorite songs on the album and I think it’s one of their best, Scarborough joins in on vocals for some wonderful harmonies. It comes off as a classic rock anthem with a timeless quality about it.

Another slow burner, “Beautiful Undead” simmers in pedal heavy guitar and though it starts off slow, it never feels like it languishing, Loyd is once again the sultry crooner here, his delivery on the lyrics “Are you crazy, everybody else is crazy to, what a crazy thing to say, are you lonely if the only one you know is you”  is perfect right before the song explodes and takes flight into a hard blues route.  Manic laughing comes in and out of the mix, for further brilliant enhancement. Another standout track on an album of standout tracks. “Rocket” is damned near psychedelic in its presentation, swirling guitars, serious effects, it’s something of any anomaly on the album as it the sole instrumental. It’s fascinating and fits perfectly right before the finale of “Dynamite The Mountain.” This song is the other track that could loosely be defined as a ballad, it provides a perfect finish after the aggressive velocity of the rest of the album.  While that technically is the finale, there is a very silly gem at the end in which the band is playing on ukeles and toy instruments, including a kazoo solo, clocking in at 90 seconds and unlike anything else on the album. “Never Quit Lovin’ You” is just ridiculous good fun, goofing in the studio and I’m glad they decided to keep it on the album (think “Her Majesty” on Abbey Road).

One thing for sure, Banana Gun has raised the bar yet again and early enough in the year to ensure that Love.Instinct will be a serious part of your Spring time soundtrack. For another treat, this album is amazing on headphones, big studio headphones that consume your mind. And remember play it loud and play it often. There is not a song that disappoints on the entire album and Love.Instinct has a perfect pace that carries you straight through it. It appears that Banana Gun just keep getting better with age and each album is an improvement over the last. It’s early on in the year and one of the best local albums is already recorded and ready for release. Now I can’t wait for everyone to hear this rough and ready rock record that certainly satisfies my craving for local rock’n'roll in spades.

Come celebrate the release of  Love.Instinct at The Sail Inn this Friday, March 8, 2014. $10 gets you in and gets you a copy of the CD. They will be joined by The Sugar Thieves, Dry River Yacht Club, Morning Theft, The Woodworks, Japhy’s Descent and The Pistoleros. Music for this awesome lineup  will begin at 7pm. This will be an amazing party and an awesome event. The set times are listed below for this awesome evening.

Morning Theft 7pm
Japhy’s Descent 8pm
The Sugar Thieves 9pm
The Pistoleros 9:45pm
Banana Gun 10:30 Pm
Dry River Yacht Club 12am
The Woodworks 1am

There will be $1 PBR’s from 6:30pm til 8:30pm and a taco stand!!

(Note: An edited version of this appeared in the February 2014 issue of JAVA Magazine)