Blending styles an influences fluently, experimental project The Bonk’s latest offering ‘Greater Than or Equal to the Bonk’ may be their most off-the-wall yet intriguing album to date; asking the listener to subvert their expectations and fall deep into the throw of their work without a second glance.
Following on from their 2017 debut ‘The Bonk Seems To Be A Verb’, the group (led by Irish songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Philip Christie, formerly of O Emperor) have all but disappeared, making the rare but remarkable appearances at festivals and shows scattered around Ireland. Despite their reclusiveness, the band have developed a loyal fanbase who have stuck by them since 2017, and who will no doubt be delighted with the growth the band have undergone since they were last set to wax.
At nine tracks and just over 30 minutes in length, ‘Greater Than or Equal to the Bonk’ are a collection of tracks written and recorded by Christie shortly after the release of the band’s debut, recorded across Cork City and Dublin in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Between long breaks and lockdowns, Christie conscripted a collection of some of Ireland’s finest musicians to put the finishing touches to a record, alongside Bonk regulars Jim Christie, Patrick Freeman, Philip O’Gorman, Dan Walsh, and Robert Grant. It’s recording process as well as familiar members provides it with a sense of continuity from the bands previous work, and finds the band following a familiar ethos of combining elements of rock, garage, pop and jazz.
The album opens with the eerie ‘I’m in There’ which slowly builds into life as a ambient drone kicks into gear like a rusty car engine, it’s own effort providing itself with enough energy to burst into life. By the end of the track, space-like production has sucking you into its warp, a lone saxaphone line imitating the last dabs of colour as you slowly fade in unconsciousness; only to be quickly awoken by follow-ups ‘Future 87’’s vibrant drumming.
Vocals throughout are few and far between, appearing on only four of the nine that make up the record. However this choice in its own right gives the record a sense of timelesssness, allowing each track to flow seamlessly without pulling your focus to its melody. The introduction of a vocal line in some track does drag it at times, however Christie is clearly succinct enough to understand where his own vocal limitations lie. It allows highlights such as ‘The Stars Look Great’, ‘Algebra’ to flourish, surpassing even some of the band’s greatest early work.
‘Greater Than or Equal to the Bonk’ is the perfect testament to a band which mean so much to so many. Never afraid to try something new or opaque, The Bonk are a testament to creativity and the glory of letting go of the chains of structure. Long live The Bonk.
Words: Cailean Coffey