It’s late on a sunny Saturday morning in Cardiff where Spillers Records, the oldest record shop in the world, tucked away in the cherished maze of arcades in the heart of the city, is playing the debut record from Boy Azooga; a fitting backdrop for one of the most exciting young Welsh groups on the scene currently who happen to hail from the city.
The latest to join the tribe of ‘Welsh bands’, as they are so often dubbed by the media and clumsily lumped together as one, Boy Azooga are a breath of fresh air compared to the likes of Stereophonics and Manic Street Preachers, who, though still releasing, touring and impressing fans new and old, established names for themselves a few decades back.
a breathe of fresh air of an album
Fronted by Davey Newington, who hails from a musical family, something strikingly refreshing about the album is its playfulness and how it experiments with a whole raft of styles and genres, yet doesn’t lose its focus. Newington has said that he hoped the album would be more like a mixtape than a concrete, distinguishable collection of tracks, and that Boy Azooga is “a celebration of loads of different types of music”. This could have been a move too ambitious to make for most groups, especially on a debut record, but it’s something the group have admirably achieved on 1, 2, Kung Fu!, which has caught the attention and coverage of local and national press and at times has flecks of The Black Keys and The Orielles in its signature.
The quartet’s record is also a culmination of a broad range of influences, from the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy to the works of Outkast, Caribou, Black Sabbath and Ty Segall; showcasing the huge impact and range popular culture and music has had on Newington’s creativity throughout his life; its unsurprisingly easily audible from the off but also makes for a breathe of fresh air of an album and one which never gets boring.
‘Loner Boogie’ is reminiscent of a Kasabian track, with its snarling riff, and at just over two minutes long, it’s a fizzing ball of energy of a track early on in the record and is neatly followed by more of the album’s best numbers, exemplified by ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’, with its sleeker, layered instrumentals which complement each other perfectly.
There are a handful of short, breezy interlude tracks on 1, 2, Kung Fu!, but even these are some of the album’s sweetest moments and most colourfully-named tracks such as ‘Breakfast Epiphany’. Sandwiched between two of these is ‘Jerry’, a sparkling summer piece with its smooth guitar hooks and repeated refrain of “where did you go to get that smile?”.
Boy Azooga is “a celebration of loads of different types of music”
‘Taxi to Your Head’ is another percussion-rich, synth-swirling track which adheres to the group’s mantra of wanting to celebrate all sorts of music, and playfully sounds as though it’s the product of a relaxed jam session rather than a rigid production one, once again contributing to the mixtape sonic the group hoped for.
Towards the end of the record, two of its standout-numbers showcase some slightly more emotive and heartfelt moments; ‘Hangover Square’ is as heady as its name suggests and ‘Waitin’’ highlights Newington’s vocal abilities and the group’s funkier streaks.
1, 2, Kung Fu! is debatably one of the lesser-known albums of the summer, and one which deserves to be having its moment in the sun.