Aug 20, 2012

On the scene: Black Bananas on Pier 63, 8.18.12

Reviewed by Liz Maher for Stupefaction - thanks Liz!:

Bad Black Bananas

Converse City Pier 63, 8.18.12 with the Kills & Viva Viva: Black Bananas is touring in support of their new release, Rad Times Xpress IV. Part of this had them sandwiched in between Viva Viva and The Kills at Converse’s City Carnage series.

Ok, they weren’t totally awful. Blame the venue. They would have rocked any small pot club or after-skate session ramp in Long Beach, CA. Converse City Carnage at Pier 63, full of teen pre-hipsters filled with Gossip Girl angst, was just not a good setting for them. Kids these days lack the cultural reference of Royal Trux or really anything and only like bands whose songs serve as background music to their favorite TV shows. Also, set in contrast against The Kills, another guitar band with a drum box, it’s just not a fair match. In short, Black Bananas -- also the name of legendary defunct Philly dance club -- are not so good-live as they basically make music for themselves. Their recordings are actually, I’m not ashamed to admit but maybe should be, fun, white skate pop. Classic, badass, sneering metal-ish stuff.

It’s impossible to discuss Black Bananas (formerly RTX) without mentioning front person, Jennifer Herrema-sort of the anti-hope Sandoval- was once half of DIY garage, grungier-than-Nirvana-ever, Royal Trux and also the pre-Kate Moss heroin chic pro-type with a Calvin Klein deal to supplement her stripping income and open the doors to a Virgin record deal. An inch or so taller than Courtney Love, Jennifer is less annoying and actually has talent masked behind her awful, yet intriguing, raspy voice. The high water booty also helps. Herrema wasn’t just the tag-along GF, she added to Royal Trux, countering Neil Hagerty’s sneering, bluesy, wailing misanthropy with misguided, extroverted enthusiasm. Add a whole lot of drugs and it’s the perfect equation for amazingly good noise. Which does not necessarily mean songs. In the last 10 years since Royal Trux ended, Herrema formed RTX, now known as Black Bananas and did a jeans line for Volcom. Now her ex-partner, Hagerty works in Howling Hex, with even less impressive results. Couples counseling at Synnanon would benefit us all.

Black Bananas for the night consisted of Herrema, guitarist, Brian McKinley, and a very disinterested Kurt Midness on keyboards. Jaimo got lost somewhere. Save for Heremma, none of Black Bananas seemed to give a fuck. Some things never change. McKinley’s guitar was ehh, satisfactory except for being really cheesy, physically covered in faux snakeskin, which looked like a sale rack item at Guitar Center. Herrema kept her face hidden throughout the whole show, causing one to wonder if she had been horribly disfigured in a pipe accident. She lunged and prowled across the stage (with minimal vigor) adding several hip-hop inspired thumb-to-hip swaggers that always seem pointless on women and men alike. Black Bananas has some cute lyrics, but it would have been nice if they had been audible. Herrema kept clutching McKinley since the crowd wasn't showing much love. Bet on them losing Midness by the end of the tour.

Official BB's patch available here
Unlike Black Banana’s recordings, where the songs are at least vaguely distinct from one another, live, their songs all blended into each other in a sort of endless druggy haze which has Jungian antecedents in Grateful Dead, Johnny Thunders and Fishbone. With a few funk elements tossed in for irony and go-no-where riffs thrown in occasionally, the songs sort of ended at random or just ended. I think, think, they played Rad Times, My House, Hot Stupid and TV Trouble but it was too much of a garbled mishmash to be certain. At points, Herrema verged on going into 70’s era disco and it would have been really interesting if she had given into her long-time urges to belt out Nile Rogers or Chic hits. In between songs or song clusters, I could not tell, Herrema mumbled inaudibly to imaginary band mates. I think she said “nice” a few times, but there was no happy face. Foxy Playground was the best song of the night and actually was discernible from the rest of the ilk. The crowd should have been more appreciative, but they just wanted Black Bananas to go and make way for The Kills. Philistines without foreskins.

There was no encore. Extra note on The Kills - they did not perform “Dreams.” Maybe Black Bananas was the Black Balloon of the evening. See my review from February for more on The Kills. It was almost the same show, except Mosshart is even thinner and more beautiful now and Hince regretfully eats beacon now.

Black Bananas on Drag City Records
Black Bananas on Amazon
Black Bananas official site

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