The Bongos: Drums Along the Hudson
Joe's Pub; Sat 14
Thu Oct 12 2006
Photograph: Phil Marino
The Bongos’ 1981 debut is one of the best albums to come out of the NYC area during the fertile, shadowy period between punk and new wave. A pitch-perfect mediation of the nervy energy of fellow Hobokenites the Feelies and the jangly guitars that R.E.M. would soon make famous, Drums Along the Hudson’s concise songs and terse, cryptic lyrics sound just as fresh today. At least eight of the record’s 15 insanely catchy songs (including the one that’s 29 seconds long) would totally weaponize a mix-tape.
Except the album has been more or less out of print since a limited reissue in 1992 and scattered bootlegs from Europe. That sorry situation will be remedied in spades this January, when Cooking Vinyl reissues Drums with add-ons like the Bongos’ first recorded live show, from 1980; two cuts from a London gig the following year, with members of Throbbing Gristle (!) sitting in; a video clip made for “The Bulrushes” (the best song on Drums); and a new version of the same track, produced and played on by Moby. The sessions for that rerecording went so well that frontman Richard Barone claims the idea to play the entire album live—with the original trio lineup (which expanded soon after Drums, when the band signed with RCA)—formed on the spot. Barone, who has maintained a respected career as a wide-ranging pop aesthete, claims the band has kept rehearsals to a minimum, making this both a party and a bit of a high-wire act. — Mike Wolf