Music Reviews
The Bongos

The Bongos

Phantom Train

Jem Recordings

The Bongos were a key element in the “Hoboken scene” of the early ’80s, along with The Feelies and The Individuals, centered around the legendary club Maxwells. Their early albums, including Drums Along the Hudson in 1982, were a clever mix of power pop and guitar rave-ups, but on later albums, such as 1985’s Beat Hotel, the band seemed played out, the records too slick, and the band broke up in 1987. Leader Richard Barone went solo and released the magnificent live album Cool Blue Halo the same year.

Now, more than 25 years later, the last Bongos album, Phantom Train, sees the light of day. Recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and produced by E.T. Thorngren, the great “lost” record is a fitting end to the first stage of The Bongos and bridges the bands demise and Barone’s solo career. Opening with “My Wildest Dreams,” the sound is prime Bongos: Barone’s sly vocals coupled with the sheen of James Mastro’s guitar. Recorded in 1985, the album, like most American bands of that era, is dated by the electronic drums and way too much echo, but by the third track, a grand version of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” you won’t notice it as much, and the rest of the 14 tracks are a welcome blast from the past.

Barone is the main songwriter on Phantom Train (as he was for most of the band’s career), and two songs from Cool Blue Halo are found here. “I Belong to Me” and “Tangled in Your Web” sound great in a fuller version than the guitar and cello of Halo, but Barone’s minimalistic guitar coupled with his cool, stylish vocals are unmistakable in any context. “Diamond Guitar,” with its driving guitars, brings to mind another ’80s fave The Psychedelic Furs, while “Roman Circus” is a standout, building and building the tension of dueling guitars and tribal drums. The record ends with three bonus tracks, stripped down demos of “Under Someone’s Spell,” “My Wildest Dreams,” and “Town of One,” a James Mastro song left off the original album.

All in all, Phantom Train is a complete and welcome surprise from the past, and gives a new generation of listeners the chance to discover one of the great ’80s bands, The Bongos.

The Bongos


Recently on Ink 19...

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Event Reviews

Joe Jackson brought his Two Rounds of Racket tour to the Lincoln Theatre in Washington D.C. on Monday. Bob Pomeroy was in the area and caught the show.

Matías Meyer

Matías Meyer

Interviews

With only a week to go before powerful new feature Louis Riel or Heaven Touches The Earth premieres in the Main Slate at UNAM International Film Festival, Lily and Generoso sat down for an in-depth conversation with the film’s director, Matías Meyer.

Mostly True

Mostly True

Print Reviews

Carl F. Gauze reviews the fascinating Mostly True: The West’s Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine, a chronicle of forgotten outsider subculture.

The Tin Star

The Tin Star

Screen Reviews

Anthony Mann’s gorgeous monochrome western, The Tin Star, may have been shot in black and white, but its themes are never that easily defined.

Flipside

Flipside

Screen Reviews

Charles DJ Deppner finds Flipside to be a vital treatise on mortality, creativity, and purpose, disguised as a quirky documentary about a struggling record store.