Before reading the entirety of this review, suffice to say that "I Crave Affection Baby But Not When I Drive" by Tankus the Henge is possibly the best new album of 2018.
Imagine, if you will, if Tom Waits, The Kinks, The Clash, Dr. John, and Frank Zappa decided to get together and form a band for Mardi Gras and you have a fairly good idea what to expect from this collection of tunes.
It is a shame that a band who so expertly blend the best of British and American musical traditions is not racing up the charts and on the cover of every music magazine but here at Hero Habit, we're on a mission to change that.
Electric Eyes (3:20)
The opening track launches into a straight ahead rock grove with loud guitars and unmistakably British vocals and serves as an excellent start to the album. This track also is the best example of the band's influence from power pop/new wave bands like The Clash and Squeeze.
Things Were Better Before (3:39)
The album continues with an ethereal mid-tempo song which may be the most traditional pop/rock song of the band's entire catalog. Sequencing this song so early in the album may have been a mistake as it feels like a low point (although not filler, it's a very good song). A track with this groove would be better served as a third or fourth track, utilized as a palette cleanser after a few of the band's more common "gonzo rock" tunes.
Last Night in New Orleans (4:01)
This is where the album begins to feel like Tankus the Henge. Opening with a Django Reinheardt style rhythm guitar and a clarinet solo over minor changes, this song jumps along and would feel perfectly at place in any bar on Bourbon Street.
It is clear that the musicians of this band have a deep understanding for the music theory components that compose each style they tackle and are able to seamlessly transition from New Wave to Dixieland and, in some cases, blend the two together.
Rock, Paper, Scissors (3:34)
This funk inspired tune is a great example of the band's ability to merge genres. If Paul McCartney, Nile Rogers, and Earth Wind and Fire wrote a song together, it very well could sound like this track.
Another mid-tempo song that plays like a tribute to Ray Davies in every aspect. Beautiful chord changes and, again, an expert merge of R&B, rock, and country all with a funky bass line holding it all together.
A fairly straight ahead ska groove with clever wordplay around weather/whether. Despite being a ska tune, this is the first track on the album with a distinct Zappa feel (think Planet of the Baritone Women) and it would fit perfectly on Zappa's "Broadway the Hard Way" album.
Again, the sequencing is a little questionable following a slower tune but it is a minor quibble.
Don't sleep on this tune. It begins with a reggae type feel and right about the moment it starts to feel like the lone filler track, a gorgeous chord change grabs your ears and then the chorus comes screaming in out of nowhere. This track could easily be a lost tune from "East Side Story" by Squeeze.
Another funky groove with great chord changes, strong background vocals, and one of the hookiest choruses on the album. If this tune doesn't make you reach for the dial and crank up the stereo, you're not listening to it properly.
Slippin' and Slidin' (4:32)
A heavy, dirty groove accented with some blues harmonica opens this track and it holds that groove throughout. There's not much to say about this tune. It's solid and well produced but lacks the flood of hooks that much of the rest of the album has.
Rotten Boots Tango (3:57)
Oh, cool, now we're doing Latin music? Just when you think this band has covered every style, they throw in one more for good measure. Gorgeous trumpets and guitar open this tango and a sudden harmonic shift going into the chorus keeps you invested in the tune throughout.
The Dark Night of the Soul (3:33)
Another solid New Wave/R&B merging that opens up and does some really cool meter shifts during the chorus.
You Can Do Anything (5:02)
Opening with stride piano and clarinet, one would hardly assume that this tune would end up being an epic power-pop anthem but listen all the way to the end.
The chorus of this song is worth listening to the entire album that preceded it. The song is densely orchestrated and the longest track on the album but it also serves as the best example of the band's full breadth of abilities. A perfect album closer.
The music on this album is stunning and although there are some sequencing choices that may have made the flow more impactful, there's not a stinker on the entire album.
Add to that the overall sound of this recording is a real treat on headphones. With such lush orchestrations and what sounds to be 50 players on each track, the mix and mastering is balanced, controlled, and live sounding and never leaves listeners with ear fatigue.
More bands should be like Tankus the Henge - focused on real instruments played with mastery - and more albums should be as strong as "I Crave Affection Baby But Not When I Drive". It is quite different from their eponymous debut five years ago but is a worthy follow up and signifies that the band is continuing to evolve and develop into a musical power house.
If you're looking for a cookie cutter album that sounds like it was produced by computers, this album isn't for you. If you like music that expands the limits of its inspirations with extreme repeat value, this album does that and more.
Great musicians playing great instruments on great songs is almost always a recipe for, well, greatness. Let's all hope that Tankus the Henge doesn't wait another five years for their third album!