Boy Azooga – 1,2, KUNG FU! album review

Ones who were lucky enough to experience Boy Azooga’s live appearance at Focus Wales in Wrexham will be glad that they were there, especially after the release of their debut album, 1,2, Kung Fu!. That bizarrely intimate gig at Central Station’s second stage acts as a stark contrast to the fact that they are probably one of the most hotly tipped indie bands around, and this album might just prove to be their breakthrough. However, this strange juxtaposition reminds you of the band themselves, as a group of young, confident yet likeable set of boys who don’t seem to realise what they could become in the not-so-distant future.

Having said that, the simplicity behind their liveliness and their naïve sense of energy doesn’t quite transpire when it comes to the music. The eccentricity that exists behind their sonic eclecticism is apparent throughout the album, especially when comparing the polyrhythmic and psychedelic final track, ‘Waitin’, to ‘Face Behind The Cigarette’, the steadier, riffier homage to William Onyeabor. As the latter’s funk-inspired groove kicks in, Beck’s ‘Colors’ also springs to mind. Somehow, this never becomes a problem, and as they are seemingly happy to discuss their colossal range of influences, Boy Azooga are never afraid of the references and the signifiers that point towards some of the staples of the rock canon.

Their sense of place and their awareness of their geographic roots are apparent as well, and the stand-out track ‘Loner Boogie’ serves as a reminder of this. They have admitted themselves that the song was inspired by the dark alleyways of Cardiff, and the fact that they filmed the video in The Transport Club, a working men’s club where they performed their first headlining gig, proves that the Welsh capital is a major influence behind their creativity.

Loner Boogie’s intense self-deprecation, and its urgent warning that ‘it’s coming for you’, makes way for a more introverted, subtler tone in ‘Jerry’, the ode to a friend, or a dog, if you believe in the authority of a video. This time, the boogie isn’t coming for us, and it now exists solely inside the mind of the insomniac that might not be as happy as the chorus suggests. The funky lines of the guitar and the bass succumb to a loungier, jazzier chord progression that points towards the Rex Orange County-led university hall pop of the year gone by.

Whilst still retaining that novice sense of raw energy and excitement, it sounds more like a mid-career album than a debut, and the self-belief within the interludes and the bridging tracks might even be able to fool the nonchalant passer-by that stumbles upon these eleven tracks and convince them that 1,2, Kung Fu! is a product of a much more experienced band. Having said that, you might be forgiven for believing that those bridging tracks are on the verge of self-indulgence and that they contradict heavily with the tight melodic anthems that form the main singles. Their addictive chirpy attitude might be able to save you from that thought, however, and if you let it do so, it will force you into the wonderful world of our new favourite band.

Words by Gethin Griffiths, Son am sin.

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