The Bongos

Re-released 26 years after it was first brought out, The Bongos’ debut album “Drums Along The Hudson” is said to be (by Time Out New York, no less), “one of the best albums to come out of the NYC area during the fertile, shadowy period between punk and new-wave”.

And it is surprisingly fresh today. The whole album has been remastered, with extra tracks added (I’ll come to these shortly). The band fit clearly into that ever-stretching genre of ‘Indie’, and it’s not hard to find their influences in today’s music. By modern terms, I’d put them somewhere between The Coral at their least experimental and Bloc Party.

But there is also evidence of their influences that pop up through the album. They have the jangly guitars made famous by The Byrds, vocals that ring of Queen and odd overlaps with The Police, The Beatles and Rolling Stones.

The tracks are catchy and lyrically dense: opening track “In The Congo”, along with “Video Eyes” and “Telephoto Lens” are the ones that standout, although there are many more that display the same high quality of these. Also worthy of note is “Certain Harbours” with its haunting story and accompanying saxophone and the bizarre 29-second skit “Speaking Sands”.

“The Bulrushes”, considered to be their best offering, appears three times on this album, in its original format on the main album, as part of eight tracks from their first ever recorded show and in a reworked version recorded in 2007 by the original line-up with Moby especially for this album. While there isn’t a huge difference between all three, it’s an interesting insight into how the band matured.

Excellent for established fans, but also a band who are relevant and enjoyable as a new discovery, this 27 track Special Edition is well worth buying. Try listening to the main album a few times, then enjoy the raw experience of the live tracks.

Simon Middleyard