The guys with the breakout hit a couple years back, the ones with the heavy drums and frequent accordion, have returned with a second album release. How does Egomaniac stand up to what Kongos have done before?
Well, the lead single, “Take It From Me,” isn’t as deeply catchy as “Come With Me Now.” That’s not to say it’s bad. I enjoy the heck out of it! I’m just not compelled to listen to it on repeat like I was with their first big single. Maybe I’m growing up, finally?
Nah. That can’t be it.
This is a band that sounds, to my ears lacking in ability to deeply parse lyrical content, like a group of brainy hippies with stupendous rhythm and a lot of ideas. It’s hard for me to tell how much is serious and how much tongue-in-cheek. Take “Autocorrect,” found partway into the album. (By the way, do not listen to that song at work. Lotsa cussin’, folks.) The general idea is that of living a kind of Matrix-like existence, downloading entertainment right into your skull, with the bonus ability to Ctrl-Z your mistakes. It’s a weird concept and a modern anthem and quite a toe-tapper and unconcerned with offending delicate sensibilities. Kongos, ladies and gentlemen, summed up in one tune.
Or how about “Birds Do It,” a very weird take on a pick-up line. It features one of the strongest accordion solos heard in a modern rock song, and that’s not the weirdest thing about the track, at least if you try to pay attention to the lyrical thread.
So on the one hand, Kongos have a sound and a style which if you heard “Come With Me Now” on the radio a few dozen times you’re plenty familiar with. On the other hand, on Egomaniac it sounds like the band is trying to figure out what that sound really means and where they’re going to go with it. Is it a “sophomore slump” record? I don’t find as many of the individual tracks quite as strong as I did on Lunatic, but this album is a bit more varied. The first album was mostly an exercise in establishing the band’s style and really getting it out there in front of people, and a side-effect of that is that many of its songs are quite similar. Great, but similar. This time it feels like they’re looking to work out the kinks as well as test their versatility without getting completely off course.
As a second outing, I recommend Egomaniac. There are some truly standout songs, such as “The World Would Run Better” and “I Don’t Mind,” plus the aforementioned “Autocorrect” and “Take It From Me.” No track clocks past the four minute mark so no single idea runs the risk of wearing out its welcome. Give it a spin, see what you think.
(NOTE: Later in the day, I discovered that Egomaniac is actually Kongos’ third album. I’m not alone in having made this mistake, but it bears correcting nonetheless.)