Holy Hand Grenade Bring Their Dynamic, Catchy Afrobeat Grooves to Bushwick
More and more good New York bands who were around before the totalitarian hammer fell in March of 2020 are reemerging intact, and one of the most smartly danceable ones is Holy Hand Grenade. The Afrobeat group, led by tenor saxophonist Lynn Ligammari and featuring a cast of horn players alongside keyboardist Chris Doyle, guitarist Timothy James, bassist Ronald Lanzilotta, percussionist Marcus Farrar and drummer David Palazola have a show coming up on March 24 at 9 at Alphaville. The Bushwick venue seems stuck in one of those goofy dollars-and-cents cover charge schemes, meaning that it’ll cost you $14 cash if you round it up a quarter or so.
The band’s latest single is The Chase, with rapidfire Ethiopian-flavored horns over a brisk latin-flavored shuffle beat, spare lingering guitar and punchy organ. With all the lulls and swells, it could be a Mulatu Astatke cover. Speaking of which, the single before that, from the fall of 2020, is the band’s otherworldly, psychedelic version of his classic Yekermo Sew, which rises from a floating suspense to a darkly majestic peak.
In 2019, the band released their debut album, Celebrate Not Separate, which is also up at Bandcamp along with their other releases. It’s a fantastic record: the riffs are catchy, the solos are succinct and you can dance to everything on it.
They blend cumulus-cloud keys, skeletal guitar and bright horn bursts in the vampy first cut, This Life. Warm brass, understated soul/funk guitar and starry keys percolate through the trickily rhythmic second track, The Follow Through. Bumping Into Strangers – a thought that would generate endless paranoia just months after the song was released – has a tight, brisk pulse, Doyle’s psychedelic cumbia-flavored keyboard solo at the center.
Delicate surf guitar and balmy tropicalia waft through track four, Look, as the Ethiopian ambience drifts in from the distance. The horns get brighter and the percussion rumbles further to the forefront along with the chugging bass and guitar in the album’s title cut. Then Ligammari cuts loose with her sax in the aptly titled Summer Joy, up to a fiery, insistent Ethiopian peak and then back down.
The band get whispery and spare but then take a suspenseful upward trajectory in Projections, with a thoughtful, smoky Ligammari solo. They close the record with Be Easy, a surprisingly cohesive mashup of edgy Ethiopiques and balmy Brazilian flavors.