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Box of Bongwater

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Album Review

This aptly titled Box of Bongwater consists of four CDs aimed at gathering a majority of the duo's recordings — many of which had been out of print or at the very least difficult to find for several years. Included in this package are the contents of the Breaking No New Ground EP; the albums Double Bummer, Too Much Sleep, The Power of Pussy, and The Big Sell Out; as well as "Love Life," the duo's contribution the Rutles Highway Revisited tribute. Bongwater is personified in the somewhat unlikely team of Mark Kramer and Ann Magnuson. Although arguably diminutive in quantity, their catalog stands as one of the most diverse in popular music. For maximum effect the pair blends their own original sonic sculptures and compositions with a considerate and eclectic mix of cover tunes spanning the entirety of popular music. But rather than emulate their influences, Bongwater tends to wholly reinvent the structure to suit their multimedia pastiche of aural imagery. These remarkable reworkings include the Beatles' "Rain" and "Julia," the 13th Floor Elevators' "You Don't Love Me" and "Splash," the Monkees' "You Just May Be the One" and "The Porpoise Song," and most especially Led Zeppelin's "Four Sticks" and the brilliant "Dazed and Chinese." Magnuson's obsession with Jimmy Page is in fact a motif running throughout this set, as are her acerbic-tongued slams at some of the most sacred of pop culture cows on "Frank," "David Bowie Wants Ideas," and "What Kind of Man Reads Playboy." The dramatic qualities and inflections that Magnuson offers are ideally matched to Kramer's ability to provide a seemingly endless pallet of sonic platforms. His skills as a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and sonic satirist make him the quintessential musical foil. If any criticism can be leveled at Box of Bongwater, it would concern logistics such as having the contents of an album spread over more than one disc, disrupting the inherent continuity of the original release. Additionally, the 12-page booklet could and should be much more than it is, considering eight of those are full-page photos or graphics. Although it is tempting to call this collection a complete anthology of Bongwater's recordings, it is a few tracks shy of that, presumably because they were not originally issued on the Kramer-owned and operated Shimmy Disc label. The Peel Sessions EP as well as a couple of tracks which surfaced on tribute albums for Neil Young and the 13th Floor Elevators, respectively, are not included in this set. However, in light of what is on the box, these caveats are practically negligible.

Customer Reviews

Bongwater Box of Bongwater

This is a collection of all the bands previous releases. Psychedlic, folky, punky, often all at the same time. Great lyrics and vocals by Ann Magnuson, wonderful everything by Kramer, and the band is amazing. I am a big fan of their covers - they do beautiful versions of tunes by 13th Floor Elevators, the Monkees, Led Zeppelin (sung in Chinese), and the Weavers among others. Check this out and enter a warm, fuzzy chamber of bliss!!

A Box Overflowing with Goodness

Every single thing the band recorded is on this thing and it's hard to classify exactly what that is exactly, except freaking great.


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;...
Full Bio
Box of Bongwater, Bongwater
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Customer Ratings

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