TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb produce a gloomy sound characterized by a hazy, hot-blooded mist. Since the late 2000s, the Philadelphia based band has been building an atmosphere of dense shade and looming danger, punctuated by moments of deliberate evaporation. And when the shadows ease and the fog dissipates, we are formally introduced to the literary figures populating the Kong discography. Cold hearted and crooked, they are as hungry for redemption as they are bored by the conscientious. Continuing the themes explored on previous releases The Hinterlands, Idiots and Manufacturing Joy, the bruising melodies of 2014’s KONG illustrates the spiteful, twisted duplicity present in the ugly side of human nature.

“ And you and I we are like children, fractures of the moment at our feet

The dreams of our fathers will remind us again

That the whole wide world is asleep. ”

Released in March of 2014, “Snakeskin,” duplicates the haunting climate of a lawless jurisdiction. Augmented by an air of mythic folklore, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb create a well-drawn environment, aided by the presence of allegorical characters. The same broken figures possess an inherent unpredictability, mirroring the music’s capacity to cast a spell with impulsive, haunting rhythms. Dan Bruskewicz, Josh Olmstead, Joshua Machiz and Dan Cask play with a relaxed energy that guides the composition toward the ghostly and mysterious. And by relying on the rough edges of his voice, Bruskewicz builds upon the arrangement’s stirring, theatrical mystique.


Opening with navy title cards bearing the song title and band name, the accompanying video for “Snakeskin,” has a style and flavor that echoes noir films. The music of TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb has always had an ability to recall smoky barrooms and celluloid film, and the video makes their affinity for such parallels clear. Exercising an appreciation for the thematic, “Snakeskin” pairs the sonically dark with wry, mischievous humor. Playing with shadow and color, the video features silhouetted, dancing women appearing alongside images of the frontman’s blacked-out, singing profile. Though most memorable is the segment where the same women are spotlighted while standing against a red brick wall, lip-syncing to Bruskewicz’s coarse vocal. And by featuring quick cuts that differ in mood and texture, the band is able to avoid the repetitious qualities of the format. More importantly, the video for “Snakeskin,” conveys the driving spirit behind the band’s music. Because to go on a journey with TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb is to take a shovel to the Earth, digging at the clean, green grass you walk upon until you reach the marred, spoiled clay of dirt underneath.

Article by: Caitlin Phillips

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