Picks and Pans Review: Beat Hotel
The band that put Hoboken, N.J. on the rock map started out in 1980 with a style that was perilously cute, sweet, acoustic and folkie. That was just an undercurrent in the quartet's personality, but the flavor was unmistakable and could have washed them up. Neither surrendering to that tendency nor abandoning it, the Bongos kept pitting that side of themselves against their apparently equal love of gritty, fuzzy guitar, high-energy atmosphere and savvy dance rhythms. With Beat Hotel, their third release, the Bongos have raised these opposing tensions to the point where they brilliantly fuse. Typical is the giddy melody of Space Jungle, which might pop like a balloon of bubble gum were it not for the nervy, jangly guitar accompaniment, the bright sound of Richard Barone's voice and the driving beat. Equally striking is the way the aggressive, urgent verse of the title cut, with its slashing bass-and-guitar figure, plays against the slow, buoying chorus ("Take me one hundred stories up to the moon"). Boyish and fanciful, yet whip-crackingly insistent and sexy, the Bongos have elevated their contradictions into one of the most stimulating pop-rock sounds around. (RCA)
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