taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of the moment


The rear cover of American Gonzos self-titled debut album gives almost as much insight into their story as the music itself does: three bros chilling on an anatopic couch in a setting that’s somehow both an example of bucolic country living and urban stagnation. If the funk rock trio were Afrikaners rather than Buncombers, they’d be zef as all hell. Like the zef flag bearer Die Antwoord, they wear their philistine-ness like a merit badge. Unlike Ninja and company, they don’t fully embrace that attitude in their music. It’s not for a lack of trying, however. The album opens with “Dominican Legs,” a “Tommy the Cat”-inspired funkout that at best dances around its narrative. Mitch Dean looks to Les Claypool often for his direction, fomenting the band’s groove-laden sound opposite drummer Toby Burleson, while guitarist Andrew Thelston spins tightly-wound melodies like Nile Rodgers on Adventures In the Land of the Good Groove. The band’s militaristic devotion to agonizingly simplistic rhyme patterns is ultimately their undoing, however, handcuffing the free-and-easy flow that you ultimately want out of this kind of music. Every song sticks to AABB or ABAB without fail, stunting the explosive instrumental breakdowns found on “39 Steps” and “Hit the Road.” More songs like the gritty “Save Your Soul”— undoubtedly the album’s superlative track — would have done the album well, lending the focus more to the band’s wicked instrumental capabilities and pushing the focus away from the inconsistent lyricism. But hey, that’s even something they admit to on “39 Steps” with the line “Got the rhythm/ ain’t got no rhyme.”

American Gonzos will perform at the Green Bean on Saturday with Of Good Nature and Sun-Dried Vibes.