Review of FIVE UPSTART AMERICANS by Jordan N. Mamone from CMJ New Music Report Issue: 645 - Nov 29, 1999
Listen up, jerk, it's black Monk time all over again! Five Upstart Americans collects the 1965 demos by the Monks, that storied, proto-punk garage rock platoon comprised of five renegade American GIs stationed in Germany. These sessions aren't really that raw by today's standards (or compared to, say, Stooges bootlegs), but they are grimier and more cavernous than the band's crucial, lone album, the 1966-issued (since reissued) Black Monk Time. Considering the year and the locale in which they were created, the songs on this archival effort are pretty damn bold. Dig singer Gary Burger's mental-ward sermonizing or his gnarled, no wave-ish guitar solos. Feel the primal pulse of his buddies' burbling bass, cheesy-cum-sinister church organ, silly electric banjo and tubby, tom-heavy drums. The Monks, whose Reeperbahn-fueled delusions inspired them to shave tonsures into their heads and wear robes, played the most brilliantly stupid, stripped-down music of the day. They were the self-proclaimed anti-Beatles -- unmelodic, rhythm-based, simplistic and anything but cute. Just listen to the way Burger growls, "Baby, I hate you!," and you'll get the message, loud and clear.



Review of FIVE UPSTART AMERICANS by Andrew Male from MOJO
Issue: 74 - January 2000

Reissue Of The Month: The legend of The Monks begins in 1965 when Gary, Larry, Roger, Eddie and Dave, five bored American kids serving in the US army in Frankfurt, decide to form a band and let off steam. It's the beat group boom, but this edgy quintet, initially touring as The Torquays, don't want to play covers about cars, girls and holding hands. Under the leadership of vocalist/guitarist Gary Burger they sing about themselves, about hate and about space travel. They solve the language barrrier by repeating their lyrics over and over again. They discover the feedback effect of cheap clubs, crafting a sound that bassist Eddie Shaw describes as "a minimalist and blunt punk chant" with howling guitar, pounding tom-toms, keyboards and electric banjo. They tell their fans "come to us if you love abuse, 'cos we ain't playing covers no more."
Thirty three years after the release of their scorchingly deranged debut album, 1966's BLACK MONK TIME , The Monks have been credited with planting the seeds for both punk rebellion and the hypnotic groove of Krautrock. FIVE UPSTART AMERICANS is the earliest document of their minimalist path. Recorded a month after the band were formed, in Stuttgart's Ludwigshafen Studios, it veers from psychotic nursery-rhyme relentlessness (We Do Wie Du) to distorted psychofolk (Pretty Suzanne). However, in the end it's nothing more than a fascinating blueprint for the true deranged genius of BLACK MONK TIME itself. Recently re-formed, The Monks played their first ever US date in November, a date which MOJO spies described as "incredible." As Gary Burger puts it in the linernotes to FIVE UPSTART AMERICANS, "We knew we had a different sound with the banjo-drums-feedback-repetition approach. People had to take notice. We didn't know it would take 30 years for it to happen."