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The Big Sell-Out

Bongwater

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Album Review

What turned out to be Bongwater's last album before the acrimonious end of the personal and professional Magnuson/Kramer partnership was a sellout only in the sense of the slick cover art and presentation, tongues firmly in cheek. Otherwise, the blend of folk, shadowy psych weirdness, and satiric spoken word and lyrical jabs against the state of the world, specifically America, run as rampant as always. Rick was replaced on second guitar by Raymond Hudson, but this made little general difference to Bongwater's overall approach and Kramer's distinct production style. The title track is one of their best, some lovely guitar drones and singing bringing out the weird, gentle melancholy of the song. Magnuson as always has a great time with her inspired monologues. "What's Big in England Now?" has her in sassy Noo Yawk voice talking about everything from pudgy editors at Rolling Stone to Lenny Kravitz talking about mushy peas. "Celebrity Compass" is even sharper, her depiction of a teenager at a Led Zeppelin party wondering, "Which one will take me away to live with him in his castle in England?," at once hilarious and just a little unsettling. Kramer's hero rock guitar in the background makes all the more sense. There are a couple of interesting deviations from the norm: "Free Love Messes Up My Life" keeps the duet singing prominent throughout, but the arrangement and general groove is very '60s/easy listening, some years before the big cult hype for that sound kicked in. "Flop Sweats," meanwhile, transforms Bongwater into a heavy blues/hard rock group, at least up until Magnuson starts talking about a performance artist who has merchandised and licensed her name with frightening efficiency. A lovely cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talking," with additional ruminations from Magnuson, concludes this intriguing album.

Customer Reviews

The Big Disappointment

You can tell that Bongwater's days were numbered as this album just doesn't get off the starting blocks. The three stars are for each of the album's three decent songs - 'Ye Olde Backlash,' 'Free Love Messes Up My Life' and a stunning cover of 'Everybody's Talking.' Other than that, utterly forgettable.

Biography

Formed: 1985 in United States

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

As much a performance art troupe as a band, Bongwater was the brainchild of guitarist (Mark) Kramer — chief of the Shimmy-Disc label and a former member of Shockabilly — and actress Ann Magnuson, best known to mainstream audiences for her role in the ABC sitcom Anything But Love as well as the feature film Making Mr. Right. Kramer and Magnuson first met at her downtown New York nightspot Club 57, where he engineered the sound for her performances with the all-female percussion group Pulsalamma;...
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The Big Sell-Out, Bongwater
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