Album Review: Money in the Banana Stand - "There's Always"

Review by Mark Laffin

“open your eyes and start again...”

I’m going to be completely honest. I was initially somewhat put off by this band’s name, Money In The Banana Stand. Yes I know, that’s unfair. But I mean come on. It’s randomly bizarre, and really gives no clue into what these guys are about musically. I really didn’t know what to expect. So I did the research, and as it happens the phrase is actually culled from a well celebrated scene in the TV sitcom, Arrested Development. In fact, the album opens up with a sound bite from the said scene. OK, cool. I generally have no problem with the exploitation of a somewhat obscure cultural reference. However, myself not ever having watched the show, I felt somewhat left out of the joke. This also made me think. Maybe having such a moniker that purposely harbours no pretense, and attempts to shed any conceivability of preconception is not such a bad idea after all. For example, if you take a band name such as Septic Flesh. The name itself immediately gives me a pretty good idea of what I might be in for going in, and this may cause me to already hold unfair prejudice. These guys might actually be on to something.

Having said this, after listening to the first song, “What You Know”, I didn’t give a shit about their name at all. It almost seemed to me that naming their band such an inane atrocity was a deliberate middle finger up to whomever chooses to judge them as such, without giving their songs a fair listen. So this is the debut album, There’s Always, from Charlottetown P.E.I.’s Money In The Banana Stand. Despite the band’s obvious sense of humor, with song titles such as “Blaise Pascal Wagers You’re an Asshole”, its pretty evident that these guys do mean business. Severely manic and frenzied rhythms, deep grooves, and impressively tight musicianship driven by balls-out punk rock fury is what we are treated to throughout most of this short but sweet sonic experience. Imagine a deliciously unique blend of early 90‘s era punk with some vague country and punkabilly subleties. The lead singer frantically narrates tales of small town frustration with a tone reminiscent of Against Me!’s Tom Gabel, and delivers with the reckless, unhinged style of Patrick Stickles from Titus Andronicus. The record exhibits an extraordinary display of musical dexterity, with shifting dynamics that are constructed so that every note and every beat counts.

The aforementioned first track, pretty much sets the tone for what is to come. Fuzzed out, overdriven guitars keeping time to the quick paced rhythm section that all sounds borderline cowpunk. The singer ululates with sheer emotion as he laments small town trappings that evokes the spirit of Springsteen’s Born To Run. The masterfully titled anti-corporate anthem, “Genghis Khan Wouldn’t Shop at Wal-Mart” is a grand tour of time signatures, and is fiendishly catchy with it’s dirty, jangly open chorded progression. On arguably the records best track, “WHT (Parts 1 & 2)”, we find the band slowly building from a melodic mid-tempo dirge, into a dramatically heavy and emotional breakdown that might give Rise Against a reason to be concerned. It may also be one of the very few songs out there with 2 parts that also clocks in at under 3 minutes. The momentum of the album shifts somewhat going into the short guitar instrumental, “Men”. It almost seems to serve as some kind of short relief between the outbursts of rage. Then the anti-conformist fight song “Wave Goodbye (To The Tough-Guys)” opens with a corny, smooth jazz intro that first has me scratching my head. However, the song quickly redeems itself by propelling head first into a furious blaze of punk rock intensity, before effortlessly lunging into a fiercely daring syncopated rhythm that slightly recalls Dillinger Escape Plan. The albums shortest song, “Laughing All The Way To The Bank” begins with a somewhat awkward and erratic measure that reminds me of Mr. Bungle, then immediately jumps into some ferocious sounding hardcore that frenetically crams a lifetime’s worth of piss and vinegar into an interval of a minute.

I do mostly enjoy this album. However, I do have a few hang ups. The overall sound is very raw, and I get the impression this may be a fair representation of their live act. In many cases I can respect this type of strategy, but with the layers of complexities hidden beneath the surface of some of these songs, I feel this album could be better benefitted with a cleaner production. I also might encourage the band to explore a wider range of textures in their overall sound. Amongst much of the calculated cacophony, the band does incorporate some flourishes of different sounds, which I think could be further explored. Despite the stunning array of tempo changes and arresting dynamics, it feels like each of their songs all contain many of the same elements. (Even if there are many of those elements). It’s like having a hundred different colors, and painting ten different pictures all using every color. Perhaps treating the entire record as a canvas, as opposed each individual song, might allow the band to create a broader, more expansive sounding piece of work.

To summarize, this album was a rather pleasant surprise. There are really not many bands that sound like this anymore. Listening to this band caused me to feel a true sense of nostalgia for the Epitaph and Fat Wreck bands of the 90’s, like Propagandhi and Snuff. Furthermore, I admire the band’s effort to seamlessly fuse this sound with some noisy country/folk elements, even if it does come off somewhat tongue in cheek. I also find myself enjoying some of the unique and subtle melodies that slowly reveal themselves with each new listen. This band is impressively accomplished, cohesive, and display a genuine working class ethic through their sound, which I deeply respect. On top of everything else, the band truly sounds like they’re having fun all the while. After all, with a name like Money In The Banana Stand, how could they not be?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I grabed this album off itunes after reading this review and i gotta say i loved it ! if i had the physical cd i think it would be scratched and destroyed just from my listening to it so much and taking it every time i drive to and from my home. keep making this kind of music guys the world needs more of it !