Come With Me Now
The track, Come With Me Now is available from:
The album, Lunatic is available at:
Arizonan fraternity turn loose a staccato whip of uplifting abandon. With some intriguing lineage and a variegated musical D.N.A., the quartet are unlike anything about. A certain critic in The Guardian was a bit ambivalent (towards their music): I’ll show him how it should be done…
IT appears that a lot of the genuine fun seems to have escaped certain…
bands, lately. The sound and sensations that stand you to attention- or else make you smile- is in short supply. I was publicly (or perhaps privately; I should keep a tab on these things!), the demise of one of the U.K.’s finest bands (of the past 15 years), The Libertines. The ’90s was synonymous with bonhomie and adventurousness; music which offered something fresh, invigorating and compelling. As the following decade unveiled, the afterglow seemed short-lived. Some great Dance music was being produced, and certain acts still had a lot of punch and energy left in them; it just felt that, for everyone else, a good lie down was in order. The quality dropped and the wanderlust that was so prescient (in the ’90s), dissipated. It became so bad, that for the first few years of the ’00s, I was still listening to the music of the mid-late ’90s- keen to keep the memory of the decade alive. The past decade was not a complete downer, yet it seemed such a disappointment, when we consider exactly what the 1990s gave to us. It was not just the diversity and surprise that had disappeared from the music; the subject and nature of fun and joy had been sucked dry. When The Libertines arrived on the scene as early as 1997, formed by Carl Barat and Pete Doherty. Although their rise to prominence was slow and unspectacular, by the time their debut, Up The Bracket, was unleashed (in 2002), few ears could ignore them. Polls and magazines placed the album at the top of their ‘Albums of the Year’ lists; many went even further, proclaiming it one of the finest albums of the decade- the effect was staggering. It is no surprise that the L.P. whipped up such a firestorm of praise. The songwriting was uniformly intelligent, authoritative and nuanced; the songs looked at modern-life; the sights and characters of the London streets- wrapped up in wit, venom and traversed morality. As much as the tracks were the work of two phenomenal songwriters, it was the sheer bonhomie and delight that was offered up, that sticks with you. Carl and Pete had- and I suspect still do- have a fraternal bond; one which dates back to their first encounter. Through the pubs and clubs of Kent and London, the duo formed a closeness and sympatico that enforced their tracks. The tracks (on their debut) are not just wonderful because of their quality; it is the fun and delight that is summoned up, which remains in your brain. Boys In The Band is a look at the hangers-on and the groupies; the girls who love the feel “of the limo wheel“; the title tracks has a swirling and dizzying series of riffs as well a brilliant vocal display (especially from Pete). Allmusic said (of the album): “… virtually every song on Up The Bracket is chock-full of the same kind of bouncy, aggressive guitars, expressive, economic drums, and irresistible hooks that made The Strokes’ debut almost too catchy for the band’s credibility“. My favourite songs on the disc- The Boy Looked at Johnny and Begging– had a rambunctious charm; poetic and sharp lyrics- and great sing-alongs and duetting between the two songwriters. Skipping over the tales of heroin abuse, fights and Rock cliché; The Libertines’ follow-up- their self-titled L.P.- picked up where Up The Bracket left off. The quality barometer may have been quivering around the 9.8 mark (rather than a full 11); yet the spirit and determination cannot be faulted. Perhaps there was more introspection and self-analysis, yet the excitement and blood-and-sweat comradery was alll in tact. Listen to tracks such as Narcissist and What Katie DId, and you can hear the sly smiles and cigarette chomping delight, when our authors shame and investigate their subjects. Even the brothers-in-arms tableaux and fractured sermons of Can’t Stand Me Now and Road To Ruin had joy amongst the tears and teeth. The guitar work and percussion was hard, pulsating and hugely evocative; the vocals authoritative and emotional- the lyrics filled with vivid scenes and tormented dreams. Even in the most dark and reflective moments from The Libertines, there was excitement and tantalization. It was a hell of a shame that the band broke up; that Pete broke them- who knows what could have become of The Likely Lads? The balls-the-wall thrash of Mayday are reminder of a band that could have gone anywhere; done anything- such was their invincible potential. To my mind, the last ten years of music has been poorer for not having The Libertines in it. They- in my head- are the last band who truly defined something special; something by-gone, perhaps: Rock at its purest and most splendid.
When tuning my radar to the modern-day bands, I am always seeking out a semblance and essence of Doherty and Barat’s crew- something that puts me in mind of their halcyon moments. Before I introduce you to Kongos, I find myself presented with music from the U.S. Most of my investigations look at U.K.-based talent and focus upon home-grown talent. It is nice when happening upon foreign artists, as it gives me a chance to hear what is happening in various other locales of the music landscape. My featured act hail from Arizona- The Grand Canyon State– and more especially, its capital, Phoenix. Arizona is noted for its diverse landscape; half of the state is desert land and half forest and woodland. The state is one of the most populous of the U.S. and notable for its hot climate and stunning scenery. Amongst the San Francisco Mountain Ranges, heavy snowfall is recorded, and it seems Arizona is a land of contrast and beauty. Spanish is the natural second language amongst its citizens, and because of its proximity to Mexico (as well as attractions such as The Grand Canyon) is a mecca and hotspot for travellers and tourists. Phoenix is divided into 15 urban villages, and each village has a balance of unique identity and sustained focus on employment and housing. Amidst the humid and arid climate, mountain lions and giant saguaro are synonymous with Phoenix’s 1.5 million-or-so inhabitants. There is a large Hispanic community in the city, and a thriving arts scene; diversity and culture are hallmarks of a grand city, and it clearly invigorates creative minds. The Cardinals, Diamonbacks and Coyotes play out of Phoenix, and the atmosphere and commonality of the city is varied and enlivened. In terms of the musical output of Arizona, the likes of Run Boy Run and What Laura Said are names that will be familiar to most of us very soon, and the state is giving life to some fresh and exciting new acts. A massive musical diversity lurks within Arizona: everything from Electro-Pop to Nick Drake-esque Acoustic Folk is offered up. Our boys, Kongos, are one of trhe most urgent and memorable bands that are coming out of the U.S. Beofe I get into more in-depth biography, the band want to clear something up (about their name): “Pronounced “KONGOS” – KONGOS is spelled like this: ” K” for Cool, “O” for Awesome, “N” for Knowledge, “G” for Jenius, “O” for Artistic, “S” for speling. There’s no “The” in KONGOS. There is however a “the” in “THEre.” It’s not KONGO’s, it’s not Congos, congas, kongus, kongas, or Jeff. No relation to Cheick Kongo, the conga drum, the Kongo people of Africa, Donkey Kong, Kongos Norman, Kongos pizza, Kongos Club in Oklahoma, twitter.com/kongos, Kat Kongos, Lasse Kongos, the japanese class of battleship or Kevin Bacon“. Our quartet consist of Dylan Kongos (bass, vocals), Daniel Kongos (guitar, vocals), Jesse Kongos (drums, percussion, vocals) and Johnny Kongos (accordion, keyboard, vocals). The band have quite a fascinating backstory. The brothers spent time between London and South Africa (in their childhood) and are the sons of John Kongos- the Johannesburg-born singer-songwriter best known for his 1971 Top 10 single, He’s Gonna Step On You Again. Our heroes are of Greek origin, and have a varied and mixed D.N.A. Because of their itenirant and scenic childhoods, our boys have picked up various influences and cultures; sounds and sensations- all of which they blend into their toe-stomping mandates. The Kongos lads have a varied set of influences. On their Facebook page, they provide a list: “The Beatles, Tinariwen, Erik Satie, John Kongos, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Bach, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Salif Keita, Joni Mitchell, Faithless, Dire Straits, Jimmy Giuffre, Coldplay, The Prodigy, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pink Floyd, Arvo Part, Bob Marley, Puccini, The Police, Chopin, Tin Hat Trio, J.J. Cale, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, South Africa … the list goes on“. The Guardian have just recently featured our heroes, and- as well as being a little lukewarm towards them- had this to say: “Our American “cousins” have already submitted – and it’s a good fact, this – because Kongos’ thumpy stomp-fest Come With Me Now is either, depending on which hysterical source you believe, the fastest-rising single to the top of the US Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Lorde’s Royals, the fastest-ascending No 1 since Evanescence’s Bring Me to Life in 2003, or simply the fastest climber to the top of said chart by a new band, ever, in human history“. In late October 2013, the band self-released Lunatic in the United States. In 2014, both I’m Only Joking and Come With Me Now began receiving noticeable exposure in the United States, gaining momentum in airplay on radio and being featured in television commercials there. As a result, the band was signed by Epic Records in late January 2014 and the band re-released Lunatic. Come with Me Now has sold more than 70,000 copies as of March 2014. I shall investigate that song in more depth, anon, yet let me reveal what some critics have had to say about our subjects:
It’s rare to be in on the ground floor of something that doesn’t sound like anything else you might’ve heard before
Serene Dominic • Phoenix New Times
KONGOS produces a refreshing, captivating rock-tribal like vibe that will leave you absolutely charmed out of your mind!
Lana Oosthuisen • SA Music Zone
As well as the incontestable youthful talent, what impresses even more is the controlled emotional outpourings …
Jonathan Leonard • Leonard’s Lair
Each song has so much attention to the groove that it sounds like another level of music has been reached that other people haven’t quite made it to. GREAT record!
Murphy • Undiscovered Radio Network
Kongos are bound to make it big. Their songs are radio-ready and they have a frickin’ kickin’ accordian!
Tim Wardyn • Music-Critic.com
This band have built a burgeoning reputation recently and it’s easy to see why here. The album bristles with intelligently written soulful pop-rock …
Haydon S. • The-Mag.co.uk
Kongos sounds like no other band, not just in the Valley, but in the whole of mainstream rock music …
Chris Hansen Orf • Get Out
KONGOS use a combination of classic rock elements, African rhythms and Balkan beats to produce an eargasmic soundscape.
Sindy Peters • BizCommunity
The four sons of UK rock legend John Kongos have recorded an amazing album in the finest spirit of their father’s 1971 Kongos classic
Robert Silverstein • 20th Century Guitar
What separates this band are the overtones of electronic mixes, accordion solos, and African-inspired beats that make this band stand out amongst your typical ‘rock band.’
Kim Milbrandt • Copperstate Music
… samples, thick dance beats, or accordions, Kongos is sure to surprise the hell out of you.
J-Sin • Smother Magazine
… there’s a lot more going on than you first realise … Definitely a grower is this one … I think it’s more ‘Sunday music’ than ‘Friday night’ music, if you catch my drift.
The Beat Surrender
Immortality and world domination may be future considerations, but for the moment the quartet and basking in critical acclaim and seeing where their music takes them. I hope that they come to London (and the U.K.) soon, as their brand of delirious and electric song is just what we need. I opened by mentioning The Libertines; it seems that Kongos have a comparable sense of abandon and joyousness- they drape their songs with smiles, winks and gleeful-ness. If our sadly defunct U.K. heroes concentrated on some of the more destructive elements of life, the Phoenix sons have a more positive and impassioned flair for the lighter side of things. America has been intoxicated and seduced by our heroes, and I hope that they hit the road very soon- and go see the world. I know that the likes of Europe, Australia and Asia will have many hungry ears waiting; and I am confident that Lunatic is just the kind of album that can provide inspiration to tired musicians. There is some merriment and genuine exhilaration amongst some of the U.K.’s best bands, yet nothing quite like Kongos offer. Without further ado, let us get into majesties of Come With Me Now…
The opening accordion sways instantly put me in mind of Paul Simon’s Graceland work; particularly The Boy In The Bubble. The first few seconds put your mind to mid-’80s Simon; to Africa and the sounds and wonders that the Graceland album provided. Before your mind prepared for Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the soft croon of music legend, a heartbeat percussion; a tempestuous thud enters the fray; sending the electricity up and building the steady momentum. When accordion and percussion commingle with subtle guitar, the effect is quite heady. An elliptical and catchy coda snakes its way into your brain, and involuntary foot-tapping and head-nodding are ordered up. Within the first 30 seconds, a perfect distillation of the band’s potency has been presented; when the vocals arrive, the pace and strike does not let up. The chorus is first up, our boys in unison voice, imploring and celebrating its words: “Come with me now/I’m gonna take you down/Come with me now/I’m gonna show you how”. The direct (and slightly distorted) vocal of our frontman stands on its own in the first verse; laying in sentiments and tapestries of anxiety, fears and inner-visions: “Afraid to lose control/And caught up in this world/I’ve wasted time, I’ve wasted breath/I think I’ve thought myself to death“. In the way that there is part rapid-pace (vocal) delivery; part sonic foot-stomp, the breathless energy of the song catches you up; our hero spitting his words, backed by a subtle yet evocative beat. When the words “I was born without this fear/Now only this seems clear/I need to move, I need to fight/I need to lose myself tonight” are offered, you can sense the conviction in our hero’s voice. Come With Me Now, is, apparently, the fastest-rising single to the top of the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Lorde’s Royals. Its catapult and fast ascendancy is justifiable when the chorus swings back around- with the boys in full voice amidst the potent stomp. The music video is a mixture of black-and-white images; band performance and various intriguing characters; the scenes both blend with the music, and seem cutely anachronistic and detached. A man twists and plays with his schoolboy cap as he gazes into a mirror; a blonde woman blow-drys her hair whilst looking on vacantly- another woman writhes and swims underwater (in black-and-white) in time to the beat. The chorus comes back for a mere moment, and before you can get up and weave in a merry hoedown, another verse is before of. Our frontman is in reflective and retrospective mood as he states that “(I) think with my heart and I move with my head/I open my mouth and it’s something I’ve read/I stood at this door before, I’m told/But a part of me knows that I’m growing too old“. My eyes are drawn to the video, still; by this stage our hatted fellow is munching a corncob pipe; frantically flicking the pages of a book, whilst looking to camera. The vocal apportionment once again switches from lone to multiple, as our hero is in cryptic mood. Oblique and ambiguity mix with vivid and personal (“Confused what I thought with something I felt/Confuse what I feel with something that’s real/I tried to sell my soul last night/Funny, he wouldn’t even take a bite“) as your mind begins to wonder. The lyrics are well-considered and original, yet it is unsure what they may be referring to. The video gives us images of a businessman riffling money (juxtaposed with a scantily clad woman on an exercise bicycle); so there may be a sense of corporate sell-out; some personal doubts about love and life- or something altogether different. Our frontman has a little of Matt Bellamy’s tenor force, as well as Chris Martin falsetto and Rufus Wainwright operatic swell as he is being called forth: “Far away/I heard him say (come with me now)/Don’t delay/I heard him say (come with me now)“. There is perhaps, too, a bit of U2’s muted Strum und Drang when the lines are delivered; you get sucked into the parable before, once more, the chorus is pistol-whipped into your consciousness. Funky guitar and Blues-style licks parabond and spar, as an insatiable musical parable rains down. If the gates of Hell have been reached; or the depth of absolution purged, then the band go to lengths to aurally represent the closed-captions. The song- now- implores you to get up and dance; advises a sense of recklessness and drunken haze as the harpsichord once more returns. Perhaps my comparisons with The Boy In The Bubble were premature and rash; Paul Simon never penned anything quite so insanely catchy and dance-able. My mind is still drawn to the video, as (in black-and-white) an alluring and captivating figure floats underwater (longingly looking to camera); this is interspersed with restless shots of the band performing the track- there is no let-up on the dizzying contradictions and mismatched visions. As the song’s final words are punctuated firmly, (in the video) our stock characters and players are reintroduced again- almost as a curtain call or cliff-hanger. The final 30-or-so seconds are a riotous blend of a aural assault and get-up-and-throw-your-arms-in-the-air-rebellion. Languid and drawling guitar lines trade with scattershot and pitter-patter percussive notations; with a snippet of the chorus coming back into view, the song ends. Whether you are in the middle of a sing-along or a bop, you wish that the song would give you another minute or so- such is the effect of a great song, that it leaves you wanting more.
Having examined most of the progeny from Lunatic, it is not hard to see why the L.P. received the adulation it did. The songs are varied and from Kids These Days’ purveyance of modern infancy (“Oh kids these days/They don’t have respect/They just talk on those cellphones/And listen to their tape cassettes); through to It’s A Good Life’s tale of suburban strain and vicissitudes where (you) “Spend half your life waiting for that light to change/Just so you can make ends meet/Everybody always looking for a fight it’s insane/And now you need a pill just to get some sleep“- there is a lot to digest. Each track offers a sonic blast and varied palette; and by the time I reached Traveling On‘s opening line (“So long my friend, my foe, my love, my pain), I was hooked and cast asunder. I know that a certain Guardian writer has been a little anxious when doling out positivity towards the band- earnest and glowing positivity at least. Perhaps it is the changeable weather or the pressures of a media job that have caused him to be a little bit distant, but Kongos will be getting plenty of attention from our shores, very soon. The bands that we have in Britain are filled with range and sounds to suit everybody, but too much seriousness and impersiousness enforce their sounds. Some groups I have reviewed such as Issimo, Crystal Seagulls and Los and the Deadlines present some themes of optimism (amongst the anger or heartbreak), yet none unleash such a manic and infectious merry-go-round of song. Like contemporaries such as Kings of Leon, the guys have plenty of Rock grit, guitar magic and solid anthems; but the way they vocalise them sets them apart from Tennessee colleagues. The Phoenix lads have a bucket-load of alacrity and energy, and this is emphasised in Come With Me Now. It is ready-made for spring and summer, yet has a charm that is going to be hard to shake. I hope that- when their music fully goes global- others will take their example to heart, and instil notes and essences of Kongos into their overall sound. Music is- and should be- designed to summon up happiness and redemption; allow release and escape. If the music you are playing is too dour or angry, then it is unlikely that a transcendent or all-encompassing listening experience will occur. Ditch the dark glasses and she-said-he-said histrionics and loosen up a bit. The U.S. quartet has shown what can happen if you are brave enough operate differently, and with greatly intuitiveness. U.S.A. Today ran a feature piece on the brothers under a week ago; where they had this to say: “Now with Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Late Night With Seth Meyers performances under its belt, the group is reigning at No. 1 on USA TODAY’s alternative airplay chart with Come With Me Now and gearing up to play Lollapalooza, Firefly, Sasquatch! and Summerfest in the months ahead. “It’s definitely really cool that it’s getting some recognition,” says Jesse of the album. “Emotionally, we’re almost ready to move on to new songs, but we definitely don’t want to stunt anything that’s happening now.” With regards to Lunatic (and the struggle for recognition in the U.S.) Dylan had this to say: “The States is especially difficult for radio because it’s so huge and there’s so many different formats…Here, the only way to reach the whole country in a small way is Sirius (satellite radio); otherwise, you’re regional.” When the band were pressed about touring, and how they find the (possible) rigours of the road, Jesse had this to say: “With each city we start getting (airplay) in, it’s like a mini-breakthrough because then we can go on tour and actually sell tickets“. It seems that as much as the music, it is the bond between the four that keeps the band solid- and ensures that they will have a long and prosperous future. Whereas contemporary brother-only acts like King of Leon have as much in common with fights and rehab (as they do each other), it is nice to know that Kongos have no interest in that: “It’s much harder to break up with your brothers… We grew up together, we know each other’s faults, so we have a much tighter bond already. And although we each have our own individual tastes and style, we come together a lot on the creative aspects of the band. Walking out on that stage and hearing a stadium shouting (for us), it’s hard to top that” (so Jesse testifies). It seems that the guys have transcending from playing small and intimate gigs- right to near-superstardom. It is early days for the guys (still), yet it is impressive how far they have come; how many people they have won over with their music. Johnny states that the smallest audience (the band) played, was a sole bartender at a strip club-turned-pool hall in San Diego: “They kept the poles and they kept the name, but there were no strippers…Well, at least that we saw.” The days of playing seedy pool halls may be in the past, as the Phoenix quartet are preparing for the big time. The varying and diverse crowds of the U.S. have already been treated to, and appreciative of, the sounds and sparks that Kongos have tempted up. I am sure that a future album and singles will be in their mind, and the momentum they garnered from Lunatic would have spiked something. Before long, we will be anticipating something fresh and new from the boys, but for now, take a listen to the current flavours of a band daring to be different. I know that the four-piece have spent a lot of time in London; so would be nice to think that the boys can come visit their old friends and say ‘hi’. If the buzz and fever that the U.S. audiences are providing ever gets a bit too much, it would be nice to think they may…
DROP down our way.