‘King Kong Company – The Album’ – Reviewed
Over the years, King Kong Company have garnered a reputation as a riotous, incendiary six-piece, renowned for their notorious live sets. Their eponymous debut album, set for release on Friday 17 June, sees the group attempting to catch lightning in a bottle and translate this live ferocity to a full-length studio release.
Since reuniting back in 2009, King Kong Company have established themselves as exhilarating mainstays of the Irish festival circuit, winning over fans with adrenaline-fuelled electro-rock. The band’s sound is rooted in the origins of their original 90s incarnation, drawing inspiration from acts like The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. In fact, it is the group’s involvement with long-time Prodigy producer Neil McLellan that has helped to shape King Kong Company – The Album into a release that captures the unrestrained exuberance of the Waterford outfit, whilst adding a professional sheen. Originally slated for release late last year, the band drafted in McLellan to clean up one track from the album. So impressive were the results, that the group were left with no choice but to get McLellan to produce the entire thing.
The experienced production is evident from the outset, as the raucous energy of ‘All These Things (Instrumental Mix)’ builds a 90s dance anthem around jagged guitar, whooping synths and a typically thumping drumbeat. ‘IPop’ follows in a similar vein, keeping the tempo high with a mesh of Daft Punk-esque guitar and distorted vocal samples as the track ebbs and flows in a structure suited to the dance-floor. This is a recurring theme with this release, particularly in the first half of the album, the songs appear geared toward live performance. Unsurprising, given King Kong Company’s notoriety as a live act and the dance-oriented nature of their music.
‘Scarity Dan’ is the first single from the album, set to be unleashed on 31 May, with a sinister accompanying video from Jamie O’Rourke of Killer Rabbit Productions. The track itself is a groover, driven by a funky bassline and some quite Eastern sounding brass. For the first time on the album, vocals come to the fore and some of the group’s dub-influences begin to shine through.
With ‘Sins of Freck’ there is a moment of respite to open the track, taking us by the hand and leading us onto the dance-floor as opposed to dropping us in the middle of it, as the group have tended toward in the opening stages of the album. ‘Sins of Freck’ is less of straightforward dance number than some of the preceding songs, favouring a more considered build-up, rather than racing for the finish line.
There’s something of an 80s influence in the opening synths of ‘Game Over’ before a return to the style of the opening tracks with a driving bassline and rapturous drumming. At the halfway point of the album, the energy has yet to let up and you can’t help but feel that this album is best experienced in a dark, sweaty club with a strobe light.
Keeping the intensity high is the curiously titled ‘Pol Pot Rock’. Maybe there’s some message in the distorted vocal that I can’t make out, or an inherent political statement that I haven’t caught onto, but it seems strange to title a club-filling dance track after a dictator responsible for millions of deaths.
King Kong Company wear their influences on their sleeve with ‘Free The Marijuana’, the biggest departure on the album. A dub-influenced bassline and brass reminiscent of ska acts like The Specials makes for a lengthy, experimental track infused with a pretty clear political statement. ‘Free The Marijuana’ is something of a love-letter to the dub and reggae music that has clearly left a big impression on the group. It’s also one of the most interesting tracks on the album, embodying the more daring approach employed in the latter stages of this release.
‘Donkey Jaw’ has an opening that conjures up images of the neon-soaked soundtrack of Drive, before venturing into a spoken-word appraisal of the “buzzer” lifestyle. This low tempo, off-kilter opening winds down before the drop hits like a ton of bricks, exploding into a cacophony of frenetic drum n’ bass. After a delightfully exhausting couple of minutes, ‘Donkey Jaw’ skulks off into a haze of ambient drones, leaving us astray in some strange, electronic wilderness.
The beginning of the next track, ‘The Crab’, feels like awakening in that strange wilderness. If ‘Donkey Jaw’ was the night before, then ‘The Crab’ is most certainly the morning after. After the ominous, almost cinematic, opening minute-and-a-half, the song begins to take shape as some odd amalgamation of Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works 85 – 92 and ‘Bloom’ from Radiohead’s 2011 release, The King of Limbs. A tendency toward the dance-oriented nature of the opening tracks rears its head in the closing moments, before giving way to another gentle finale.
‘Space Hopper’ is a fitting album closer, finishing proceedings with the familiar bang found in the opening tracks of King Kong Company – The Album and adding a bit of Dublin flavour with the distorted vocal employed throughout the song. The 80s synths are on show again and the deft production of Neil McLellan ensures nothing is lost amidst the chaos.
King Kong Company – The Album comes close to capturing the raucous energy that the group bring to their gigs and there’s even a tendency toward something a bit more experimental in the second half of the album, with the influence of their predecessors and peers seeping through. The band play to their strengths on this release, setting the tone with a collection of thumping dance tracks to open proceedings, before flaunting some interesting stylistic choices on the more experimental second half. Ultimately, this album serves to remind us of what we already knew about King Kong Company. They’re not a headphones band. They’re an adrenaline shot, best served at a packed festival, or on a dimly lit dance-floor.