Review Summary: No "Pot-headed Pixies" here, but Daevid Allen's first solo album is just as, if not stranger than his work with Gong and Soft Machine.
When he's eventually popped his clogs (for the man turns 76 in a few days from now), Daevid Allen may only ever be remembered for his long-running input into arguably one of the most influential bands of the psychedelic rock genre, Gong. However, long before such a band existed the man was running around the world, meeting up with musical poets, disgruntling government authorities due to his visa running out and generally cooking up some of the most otherworldly stories known to man (and it's not just the pot-head pixies I'm referring to either). After having had the time of his life producing the strangest music of the late 60s under the Soft Machine and Gong banners, Allen decided to go on a more personal venture into the world of music, thus creating his first solo album, Bananamoon
is a completely different kettle of fish to Allen's work with Gong and Soft Machine, though still very much drug-addled and otherworldly all the same. For his début solo album, Allen still used numerous musicians as he did with his previous two bands on various songs. Therefore, what we have in Bananamoon
is not just one musician's input, but a rather large handful of musicians all contributing their respective talents to each and every song. As a result, every song here is different in its own way, though there are times when a song can lose itself amidst psychedelic music.
We should really start with Daevid Allen's input into the album, because although he only sings on half of the songs on Bananamoon
, he did have a major role in the songwriting process. There are ballsy hard rockers influenced by blues (“White Neck Blooze”), rock 'n' roll (“Time of your Life”), and even nods to the Jimi Hendrix Experience of the late 60s (“I am a bowl”), though all songs are notably distinctive simply because of Allen's voice. You can't listen to the very upbeat and bouncy “Time of your Life” without getting Allen's vocals stuck in your head, and for that reason too, it might just put listeners off. Yet even then, there's always at least something to like about Allen's solo material. If it's not his vocals, it could be his questionable lyrical input (“O hand me bowler and me didgery doo/One banana sandwich and a bucket of tea/abra cabra dabra I'm a coolibar tree” on “Fred the Fish”), his hard guitar strumming on “Time of your Life” and “I am a Bowl” or even the way in which he manages to fuse harmonic group vocals with psyched-out instrumental jams to create almost stunning results ("And his Adventures in the Land of Flip").
That said, what really stands out on Allen's solo material is the more experimental music, resembling closely to the likes of Gong and Soft Machine (of course). The album's longest song by far, “And his Adventures in the Land of Flip” (“His” refers to the character in the preceding song title, “Stoned out Frankenstein”), is divided into two parts. One part actually makes sense with a comprehensible musical structure, showing Allen's more restrained and harmonic musical input, whereas the other simply relies on bizarre instrumental jams where a multitude of different instruments-trombones, saxophones, even a violin-all come together to crash about in hope of making one uniquely crafted sound. If you're asking yourself whether this musical style makes sense or not, just remember that it's not supposed to make sense, it's just there. Because Daevid Allen is simply a musician who puts his ideas down onto paper, and then brings them to life through music in their raw form. He doesn't change the original idea, and that's perhaps why his solo work, especially on Bananamoon
, is so strange just like Gong has been known to be.
Daevid Allen's solo work will probably only be understood by fans of Gong and Soft Machine, because anybody else who listens to Bananamoon
will either be disappointed or confused. You have to take into consideration what type of a musician Daevid Allen was in the early 70s, and still is today. He's the type of musician that simply carries on spiralling downwards (or upwards, depending on the drugs you're taking when listening to one of the man's albums) into a marvellous world of his own, and if you're ready to take the trip into his world, then Bananamoon
is definitely for you.