Released: August 2014
Kongos are four brothers of Greek origin brought up in London and South Africa and based in the US, and their music sounds as varied, confusing and intriguing as their nationality. A major hit across the Atlantic, the Phoenix residing four-piece has been knocking about for some time and is finally starting to make some waves in the UK with airplay on BBC Radio 1 and XFM. Their debut album, Lunatic, is a full-throttle LP, a bodacious and unruly soundtrack to a band with limitless potential kicking the door down and shouting to the world “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!”
Lunatic sees the sound of every half decent indie band of the last ten years thrown into the mix as Kongos chant, wail, pound and croon their way through this rousing 12 track LP. Its opening track I’m Only Joking is an epic fusion of folk tones and melodies with the attitude and guitar work of a Foo Fighters tune. It comes out sounding like a rock ‘n’ roll cover of the Lord of the Rings theme, an ungodly fusion of awesomeness. It’s such a bold statement of a song that by the end of its duration the listener is left wondering if its bravado can be surpassed; it is.
Instantly the band turns it up another notch, dishing out premium anthemia with the hit single Come With Me Now. It’s effectively Elbow’s Grounds For Divorce rearranged by Johnny Cash and belted out by every great rock singer since the 1960s, an emphatic choral stomper with twanging guitars, grungy power chords and an accordion for good measure.
Later tracks on the record further maintain this sheer power, the testosterone of the shared vocals and breathtaking instrumentalism supplying songs with the strength needed to stand up with modern indie heavyweights. Take Me Back is dark and brooding whilst Hey I Don’t Know treats us to a brutal riff and almost psychedelic vocals in its pre-chorus as the band borrows from Tame Impala and The Black Keys to present the album’s strongest number.
What makes Kongos work is unclear. Their ambitious mash-up of folk, indie, rock and dance in the band’s songwriting is admirable and demonstrably pays off, whilst their skill as musicians cannot be overlooked. Vocals are particularly strong throughout Lunatic, with powerful hooks and harmonies dominating most tracks and some emotive performances translating occasionally touching lyrics that expose a vulnerability otherwise hidden behind the swagger that fills the bulk of the album. They have plenty of conceivable USPs – the infectious choruses, the driving beats, that goddamn accordion – yet Kongos refuse to be typecast, firing on all cylinders with dirty guitars and howling vocals one minute, retreating to tender Yesterday-esque ballads the next.
Kongos are set to tour with Kings of Leon, and as siblings playing anthemic American tinged indie music, comparisons are bound to be made. One can’t help but feel that if the Followills had recorded Lunatic it would be hailed as a brave return to form; perhaps even the closest this decade has seen to a proper indie classic. It has the balls of Kasabian, the melody of The Beatles, the audacity of the Arctics, the rawness of The Clash, and the innovation and daring of every great pop band. It is, however, Kongos’ own record. The band sound like everyone and no one at the same time. They sound like something new, something different, perhaps even the future.