The Monks'
Let's Start A Beat!

A review by Alexander Schuth

Excerpt from German music magazine superstar, issue 1/2001 (#19)
(c) 1996-2001 superstar. Translation (c) Eddie Shaw 2001.

Click for larger imageThe Monks. The hardest band in the world ever to get on stage with a electrified banjo. Feed-back pioneers. Ever heard of them? No?

Then take a look at page 18. Or go to page 45. Or go back to the review section in superstar's issue #17 (In German). Or read what Guz (Swiss rock star) has to say in superstar #16 (in German and English) about the only album the ex-GIs ever recorded: Black Monk Time (Polydor, 1966). Pretty THEN. Case closed. Right? Not quite.

In 1999 the Monks appeared for the first time since the 60's - and it was the first time they ever appeared in the USA. On this CD you will hear their appearance at the Cavestomp!-festival.

A sacrilege? Is a shrine of garage beat desecrated? No way!

You can see them play in the encluded Quicktime movie that is on the CD. They look old. Heck - they ARE old. But they don't sound old. Or rather, they sound as bloody raw now as they did THEN, so old and world weary and angry and young. No shit!

The sound on this record is supposedly very close to the live sound of old. I love the fat, leathery sound of the drums (I want to express that he uses much the leather pieces, nearly as if he hadn't a single cymbal. ???), the chopping banjo, the bass, - the underlying intellectually sharp revelation of the lyrics - sometimes confusing, but always meaningful. The garnish of the shattering organ and destructive, feeding back guitar. [haha, here we got a funny thing going on - I mean the lyrics are simple, reduced to basics, nearly moronic. Nobody ever dared to mention this anywhere in print before besides some comments in your bio, or at least I've never read anything on this. My case is: The Monks lyrics in part are nearly moronic, but totally satisfying, same as with the Ramones or Devo - bands with a message like the Monks, but often moronic, farcical lyrics, which still hit home BIG TIME. Hope you're not offended with this comment, but hey, the Ramones and Devo are two of my life top twenty bands, exactly because of this recklessness... "We don't care about what you expect, we're gonna goof of, and those who dig it will understand" Like a silliness-encryption that made access to the texts impossible for straight johns, but told any fool and fan volumes. My humble idea. I hope I'm not getting excommunicated for such heresy... Following my suggestion for translation: ...banjo, the bass. Homing in way beneath any intellectual PC-surveillance with lyrics that seem sometimes strangely moronic, but are nevertheless absolutely satisfying. The garnish of the shattering organ and the brute force of the feeding back guitar.

Additional realism comes courtesy of Gary Burger's voice, whose bronchitis-punished vocal chords are helped valiantly by band mambers and a fan (Mike Fornatale) who'd been promoted to Son of Monk.

And finally totally making me happy: The encore, where they improvised the title song. Yes, Monks, I understood: "Alway support live music!"

You can find a most detailed discussion of this CD, how it came to happen and the mixing on the Monks' own website: www.the-monks.com, follow the link to "Confessionals." Not long ago someone on website asked about Wahwah-pedals, which Jimmy Hendrix supposedly first saw used by the monks. Only it wasn't a Vox wahwah as I had falsely reported two issues ago. According to Gary Burger it was a Fender footpedal with which he achieved wahwah-like effects. Forgive me.

Let's Start a Beart! sound still contemporary for me. That still isn't from yesterday. It is not retro. It still means something. It is TODAY.


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