Black Bananas: Rad Times Xpress IV (Drag City)

Too often, rock bands seem content to settle for cool genre tags instead of flying their freak flags high. Fortunately, one can always count on Royal Trux co-founder Jennifer Herrema to run something colorful, half-crazy and completely pledge-worthy up a musical pole.

Herrema's latest project is Black Bananas, a hallucinatory blend of funk, '80s synth-pop and psychedelic rock. The band's debut album, Rad Times Xpress IV, is unlike anything you've heard, and if there's a "gateway" album to a spiraling-into-life's-gutter drug trip, this is it.

"TV Trouble," with its goofy Plasticine bass line, sounds like it was liberated from Huey Lewis and the News' Sports-era secret demo reel, and then run through a gantlet of fuzz guitars. "Hot Stupid," a hilariously overdriven AC/DC-meets-Funkadelic celebration of American Neanderthalism you'll never get sick of spinning, is novel and invigorating. The Recycler-grade ZZ Top pastiche "Foxy Playground" is so absolutely perfect for a driving-to-California iPod mix that the Golden State should license the song for tourist ads.

I guess the best way to explain Rad is as a radical re-examination and aggressive recombination of commonly cast-off musical styles—blaxploitation scores, heavy-metal video-game themes, Quaalude-inspired cop-show soundtracks, etc. I have no idea if Black Bananas can pull off their dreamy studio clamor live, but now's our chance to find out.

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