Picks and Pans Review: Drums Along the Hudson
Any town that produced Frank Sinatra, the locations for On the Waterfront and America's first brewery (in 1642) need do little more for the cause of entertainment. But Hoboken, N.J. won't quit. Its latest contribution to the culture is this taut, jaunty quartet specializing in what singer/ guitarist Richard Barone calls "underground, Andy Warhol pop—not bubble gum." Drawn by cheap rents and a 30-cent, 10-minute subway ride to lower Manhattan, rock music types began flocking to the blue-collar town in the mid-'70s. The Bongos wrote much of their material in a noisy, aromatic walk-up. They helped launch Hoboken's first rock club, and soon drew more rent refugees, eventually including the Feelies, the Cyclones and, ironically, many staff members of the influential paper New York Rocker. Despite their distinctive and accessible style, the Bongos didn't record until Englishman Rod Pearce heard them and signed them to his tiny label, Fetish. For a while the Bongos were better known in London's Soho than in New York's. Drums Along the Hudson, on the domestic PVC label, could rectify that. There is little of the usual purposeful distortion on its 15 lively cuts (bongos are played on only one), so the guitars actually sound like stringed instruments. People no longer hoot at Hoboken's name (derived from the Leni-Lenape Indian term for "Land of the Tobacco Pipe"). Thanks to the Bongos, there's no hooting at its music these days, either.