Tuesday, November 27, 2012

#129: The Monks - Black Monk Time (1966)

The Monks were not a commercial success and neither were any of the tracks on the album, however, it's been reissued a number of times and they have become a cult success. This is their only album and the band was formed in Germany by US soldiers.

Shut Up
It's interesting how this band is both jazz oriented, yet there's factors of punk and rock as well. I like how the rhythm holds such a primary role in the music. Usually jazz has a plethora of ideas and not nearly enough focus, this however, has quite the opposite. It's interesting, it's not like other songs from this era, but it also slightly misses the mark. They stick to one idea throughout the song, but in order to keep it interesting the songs are bite sized.

I Hate You
My favorite part of the band so far are the crowd vocals. The Monks have a knack for finding really cool grooves and the because of the vamping the lead vocals really need to shine - and they do. There's a lot of fall off notes and care put into the performance. The bass doesn't push as much as I'd like it to, but the dirty guitar is perfect. The drums find a rhythm, nails it to the ground, builds a bombing shelter around it, and then nukes everything in sight to ensure that the rhythm is not disturbed. It. does. not. change.

I dig not dig all the lyrics, the album starts with this sort of, "Heya mister stop sending troops to 'Nam." Which I may have appreciated in it's time, but especially since it's so generic I have a hard time doing anything but roll my eyes when I hear it today. I'm all for a song with political motives (see Randy Newman's Political Science) but at times it feels more like Green Day's "Holiday" where it bludgeons you over the head repeatedly with it's politics. Musically  this track is no different from any other track - it's not bad but it shares all the same motifs and themes.

All in all, it's an interesting album. I found the best moments were on "We Do Wie Du" because of their use of harmonies. I didn't find the repetition of this track to be bothersome because there was enough to keep me engaged. I do appreciate the Monks ability to force me to listen to this album differently, however I found myself in a perpetual state of waiting for the band to transition out of their current phrase. I enjoyed a lot of the riffs they came up with, but they're driven so far into the ground that there's no sense in saving them or trying to dig them out - instead they just start digging another hole next to it. There's no doubt that popular music needed a shot of the Monks, it's primal in certain aspects and they do plenty of things right. I think plenty of musicians are able to learn from this band, take what they did well, and incorporate it into a different setting. The Monks aren't the full package but you have to admire their rawness and their talent.

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