On Maxwell’s’ last day of operation, Hoboken’s own The Bongos played the final concert at the famous venue. The band broke up in 1987, but as its original members were the first ones to ever take the stage at Maxwell’s, it only seemed fitting that the establishment’s life be bookended so perfectly. To coincide with the reunion, the band announced that they would release their album Phantom Train, recorded in 1986 but never shown the light of day.
Regardless of release date, the record should be treated in a manner fitting for what it is: A relic from an era that happened a lot longer ago that some middle-aged adults would prefer. The LP is physically a ghost caught in a flux capacitor, but that is not necessarily a bad thing; the fun, catchy tone of new wave is strong throughout the record, making it a good listen regardless of age, and honestly, the age doesn’t matter for anyone with a retro-inclined ear. Year of recording becomes a whole lot less important when tracks like “River To River” come into play. A song that manages to convey emotion in such a spine-tingling way is memorable, regardless of genre. That’s where the heart of this album lies: It would have been a really good listen in the mid ’80s, and it’s a really good listen now.
Obviously, in deciding to release Phantom Train 27 years after the fact, The Bongos aren’t trying to release a Top 40 cracking blockbuster. It is merely something for their fans, or fans of new wave in general. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t gain a new fan or two anyway.