Usually i hate bands with animal-featuring names. Whether it's for the smart-arse wackiness of Horse the Band and their ilk1 or the total dearth of imagination (musical and general) usually signified by animal-naming ("Rob, we're called Sonic Death Monkey… If Laura and her bourgeois lawyer friends can't handle it, fuck them. Let 'em riot." Yeeeaahhhh.) or the fact that seemingly every other indie hipster darling of the last few years is called something Bear. Grizzly Bear, Minus the Bear, Panda Bear — ok enough bears now thanks.2
So it seems highly unlikely that a band called Monkey Power Trio would dodge that bullet, but dodge it they do, mostly by virtue of the comfortable slacker Zen and slight sense of wrongness they exude — for a start, there's five of them (of course). They never play live, and only assemble one day every year "to create works of inspired genius" — i.e. brainstorming and recording a complete new set of songs that are given away on their web page as well as in limited physical runs.
Lest We Be Misunderstook documents their 2007 meeting, the thirteenth of the band's "career". Of the experience, they write:
"There was time in their annual musical exploration to stop and taste the earthly delights of J. Alfred Prufrock's juicy peach, but there was also time to study world religions, from Buddha to the Bible, through hard rock melody and harmony. And, going even deeper into their shallow understanding of life, the band stands on the edge of Toccoa's cliffs and blinks into the fathomless abyss of mythical monsterhood.What this means i have no idea, but it gives you a convincing taste of their appealingly ridiculous schtick. The four songs on LWBM recall the likes of Presidents of the USA, Sebadoh, Camper Van Beethoven and other 90s grunge/alt. antiheroes, both in the shambling guitar chug and daft humour. So supremely laid-back lead track "Hit It with a Bible" proclaims "Satan is my rival / Evil's my Kn-ivel3 /rock'n'roll revival / humanity's survival", but the band slyly undermine the high drama of the lyrics by delivering them as if heavily tranquilised. It sounds like it'd be appropriate listening on awakening in a clearing in the woods near a lake on a sunlit spring morning — perhaps unsurprising, given that it was all conceived and recorded in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. "Slow, fast, whatever — when you speed up, we'll speed up. Let's go" says one of the group at the start of "Juicy Peaches", neatly summing up the easy-going ethos.
In the end, the needle is stuck in a crackling groove, and our unused nurdles end up swirling in the Pacific gyre right along with our thoughtlessly used-up polymer shopping bags, neither floating nor sinking, breaking down in sunlight, swirling into the marine soup, and entering the food chain."
Of the other songs, "Kraken" adds falsetto backing vocals to the jovial menace of a less arsed Shellac, while closer "Buddha Sings" sounds like it borrows from the teachings of the Enlightened One himself ("in the dark night, make your own road / perfection is deadly / in the richness of black pain you will find your own home"), only to back them with an incongruous upbeat country-rock jaunt.
This isn't music that's likely to change anyone's life, but it's not like they mean it to. Rather, MPT's importance lies merely in the fact that they exist, impelled by nothing more than the desire to make daft music for their own amusement once every year, and maybe catch a couple of listeners along the way too. It's a refreshingly modest ambition amidst the din of everyday self-promotion.
Happily, the whole thing is available for free listen/download!
mp3: "Hit It with a Bible"
mp3: "Juicy Peaches"
mp3: "Buddha Sings"
Part of an over-amibitious ongoing series wherein i attempt to review every new (to me) record i hear this year (or until i regret this decision or am overwhelmed by circumstance). See also: Philip Jeck; Magic Lantern; Bălănescu Quartet; Rainbosws; Zan-zan-zawa-veia; Wavves.
1 In case someone confuses them with horse the animal, yeh? Oh wait, no, cuz that'd never actually happen.
2 Wandering Bear is the exception because of the dope CYE reference. OK?
3 Pronounced to rhyme with "Bible", natch.