After finishing the first ever Boy Azooga demos, frontman and visionary of the band, Davey Newington, was just going to put them on SoundCloud, but someone persuaded him to send them to record labels. Speaking about his dream record label, he stated that “Heavenly Recordings would be a dream, they have one of my favourite bands King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, but that’s the ultimate dream and unlikely. Anyone that just wants to put it out would be amazing”. Fast forward a few months and Boy Azooga are one of the hottest bands in the country, having just dominated The Great Escape Festival with three excellent performances, and signed to Heavenly Recordings where their debut record 1, 2, Kung Fu! was released.
One of the most impressive aspects to 1, 2, Kung Fu! is the sheer musicality brought into it; from the krautrock of CAN, to the psych-pop of Super Furry Animals, with influences from Nigerian funk legend William Onyeabor, pop supremo Brian Wilson, and Madchester’s finest Happy Mondays. The record essentially draws from the elixir of beautiful pop from past to present, to create a kaleidoscopic, quirky and quite frankly brilliant multicoloured pop record. It’s no surprise really, though, as music is in Newington’s blood. One of his grandads played the drums in the Royal Marine’s jazz band, while both of his parents played violin and clarinet, respectively, in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Beautifully, 1, 2, Kung Fu! sees Newington branching out from his parents’ sound, with a slight nod to the people who brought music into his life.
“The album is not all one thing for sure,” states Newington, “The whole point of Boy Azooga is to be a celebration of loads of different types of music. I wanted the album to be more like a mixtape or something. We wanted to include loads of contrasting styles,” and that’s made abundantly clear with the opening of the record. ‘Breakfast Epiphany’, the filmic instrumental that is followed up later in the record with ‘Breakfast Epiphany II’ – which not only begins to craft a narrative, but to bring some depth and balance to the record – opens proceedings in a delightfully laid back way, which is swiftly followed by the two minute burst of second single ‘Loner Boogie’. The song is so thrilling, and so catchy, that is has all the attributes to be the next big indie banger.
However, one of the finest songs on the record, and best example of Newington’s assorted, multitudinous musical talent is debut single ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’. The track, which both hints at Hot Butter’s 1972 synth-pop smash ‘Popcorn’, as well as that ever present William Onyeabor influence, is an incredibly impressive feat, coupling both the art-rock scene dominated by the dance pop of Django Django and the laid-back, effervescent alt-J, and the rhythm section of krautrock superstars CAN. Then, Newington flips everything on its head with ‘Jerry’. The track is a delicate and supple ode to a friend, which showcases Newington’s crooner side. No doubt influenced from a 50s love song, the fanciful synth organ, which injects a sense of exuberant relish to proceedings, as well as the simplicity and earnestness to the lyrics, provides a throwback sound but with a wink and a nod that brings it straight back into modernity.
It’s psych-funk that mostly dominates 1, 2, Kung Fu!, however, ‘Taxi in Your Head’, arguably the best song on the whole record, is a dynamic, bass-led track that heads to-and-fro from crescendo and back, evoking the celebratory atmosphere of the Happy Mondays. The crashing finale resembles a Beatles Abbey Road cut, too, as the waves of lead guitar evokes the freedom and sheer talent of George Harrison. Likewise, album finale ‘Sitting on the First Rock From the Sun’ combines the 1960s sunny disposition, that then expands into a frenetic, wild Black Sabbath-esque climax that is certainly worthy of finishing an album of this calibre.
This is a wonderful record, and a gobsmackingly good debut album that any musician would be proud of. Truly one of, if not the, sound of the summer, to call Davey Newington a musical prodigy would be underestimating his talents. Performing nearly every instrument on the record, as well as creating an honest, sincere melting pot of incredible ideas, influences and mesmerising sounds, Boy Azooga are not just a band to watch, they’re a band to stop and stare at.