Patience and preservation are exigent when crafting a debut, but that doesn’t stop bands from neglecting them both. For Erin Birgy, the brains behind Mega Bog, there was no need to rush. Getting to that finish line took five years, the result of her weeding through countless self-released tapes and CDs for the right tracks. Now that her full-length, Gone Banana, is ready, Birgy can stand confidently behind her own brand of warped beach pop in the guise of smooth ’70s rock. But no matter how efficiently her compilation runs, the risk it takes stylistically throws it off from hitting a clean stride.
For one, there’s the prominence of saxophone, courtesy of Jacob Zimmerman. It’s the lure that makes Gone Banana so immersive, but Mega Bog never overuse it. “Year of Patience” uses the same chilling sharpness of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” had he taken three shots with Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier beforehand. We’re in a time where dream pop died, ’80s synth is still appealing, and disco is getting revamped. Give it a few years. Saxophone could step into the spotlight again, but for now, Mega Bog don’t care. They ditch guitar reverb for horns, a move that could rival Ariel Pink and Prefab Sprout if their own hazy pop wasn’t so dependent on dramatics.
Mega Bog keeps jazz balanced inside the belly of soft rock. Lush numbers “Aurora / 99” and “Wet Moss” quickly make way for Birgy’s quirks: childish lyrics, surf rock guitar, and cutesy vocals not far from Belle and Sebastian’s twee. The album works best when effervescent. Colors flash on the title track, “Goobie Krishna”, and “Cologne in the Night”, courtesy of talented jazz drumming and smart production, making them shoe-ins for French new wave hotel scenes. Even the cover of Kevin Ayers’ “Lady Rachel” sees Mega Bog nod to the oldies radio station, rewriting the emotional, psychedelic number as torpid sop to bring things to an end.
Gone Banana is obviously an example of artistic independence in a world of regurgitation and standard genres. The noteworthy rock, idolized singer-songwriters, and endless dancing are well done, but when we’re face-to-face with someone who’s truly walking their own path with experimental pop, it’s difficult to compare. If Birgy bumped her cover or cut the filler tracks “Intro (Bird Bridge)” and “TP – 89 (edit)”, her hard work would be easier to make out. Instead, she’s left with a noteworthy debut that’s ahead of its time and smudged with minute-long self-indulgences. At least we have someone to thank when saxophone comes back in style in 2021.
Essential Tracks: “Year of Patience”, “Goobie Krishna”, and “Cologne in the Night”