Before I get to the review of the new Tank & The Bangas’ release, I need to offer up a little “edjumacation” as I feel it might be necessary.
You see, in the past year I have had several younger vinyl enthusiasts ask me quite seriously: “What is an EP?” I was surprised initially but realize it is a legitimate question for those who have not been exposed to it before.
So… an “EP” is an “extended play” vinyl record. It offers more tracks than a “single” which — again, in old school vinyl terms — was typically two tracks, an A-side and a B-side. The EP concept came about as something of a stop gap between album releases and also to offer something a bit more to fans who couldn’t afford to buy a whole album. Typically they had four tracks on them.
Back in the 1960s, in the UK especially, EPs were a big thing, with The Beatles issuing quite a number of them, some with exclusive tracks. While the format never quite caught on in the US — Elvis Presley and some others tried them in the 1950s — the concept was repurposed in the late 70s and 80s with the emergence of the 12-inch single. It was a great place to put outtakes, alternate mixes and even unique remixes. Elvis Costello put out several three- and four-song EPs in the late 70s and early 80s, both in 7-inch and 12-inch formats. Guided By Voices have put out numerous EPs over the years, some with six songs jammed onto a 7-inch disc!
I hope that helps clarify things for some readers. Now, on to the review…
The new release by New Orleans’ brilliant avant-soul-jazz-funk-hip-hop-rock-spoken-word band Tank & The Bangas is an “EP.” This new EP is longer than many with six songs. So it is almost as satisfying as a full new release. So for the purposes of this review, I’ll just be calling it an “album.” In the ‘80s, this might have been called a “Mini-Album.”
After the joy of their Green Balloon album a couple of years back — click here to read my review — it’s encouraging to see that the band is pushing forward on recording even in the face of the pandemic lockdown.
Called Friend Goals, the new album is a study in people and their lives in the real world these days, offered up in a humorous yet poignant manner. On this record Tank & The Bangas collaborate with a number of special guests including (in no particular order) Duckworth, CHIKA, Phoelix, HaSizzle, Big Choo, Pell, Orleans Big and many others…
So the sound here is at once familiar yet also a little bit different because of the new voices mixed in, but that is all good.
The opening track is perhaps my favorite called “Fluff,” featuring a smooth chill-wave groove that brings you in immediately with an infectious-yet-restrained signature riff. The song deals with people’s priorities in life, particularly someone living the non-stop party life but only ending up with “The drugs, the fantasy, the chasing of pleasures, You realize it never made it better.”
“To Be Real” takes the chill party vibe out a bit more with a great title hook — “to be real, just being honest.” The vocals here just jump out at you in a good way and the rhythms have a slightly retro feel at points that work it for the tune…
“Self Care” revolves around a quirky riff played on what sounds like a detuned Koto-like sting instrument. This is supported by a haunting recorder (or wooden flute of some sort) line in a sort of call-and-response. The Pandemic-era sentiment here resonates strongly: “I’m ready to get myself back.”
Inevitably, as on most Tank & The Bangas recordings they offer up some lyrical and musical levity on Friend Goals. “TSA” a funny lament over all the seemingly random stuff people lose at the airport these days when trying to get through security. “Mr. Insta” is a very 21st century ode to the powers that be at social media’s Instagram and the struggle to recover a hacked account.
Throughout all the six songs on Friend Goals the quality of Tank’s vocals and the strong sense of melody makes this music sink its earworm hooks deeply in your brain. Couple that with some great grooves and you’ve got an instant winner.
The standard weight pink vinyl version of Friend Goals that I bought from Tank & The Bangas’ website is quiet and well centered. This is a fine sounding fun release that feels just right for this moment in time and will keep us happy until their next full length album is ready. Can’t wait to see them perform live again soon!