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Review Mon Apr 02 2007

Simian Solar Flares That Burn For You

Ever listen to an album and feel like you should be wearing a certain something to make the experience, y'know, complete? Case in point: The new self-released CD-R, ZOO13, by the Chicago garage-pysch outfit Monkey Sun. Somehow it makes me feel like, in order to get the full effect, I should be wearing a set of vintage Italian wraparound shades — like the sort that Marcello Mastroianni wore in The 10th Victim, maybe.

Why's that? Because, over all, Monkey Sun are pretty Velvet-y with a capital vee. They aim for a specific style of popness and hold to it unwaveringly. Their songs have a heavy, mid-Sixties Anglophilic sound, the type that best compliments a rainy Sunday afternoon spent lounging on the sofa, but can also prompt some good foot-shuffling and hip-swaying when played live and loud in a club. It's all efette and breathy, the sort that denotes misspent energies and unfulfilled desires. Moodwise, Monkey Sun sound like a languid bunch, making tunes to accompany those moments when you're adrift with hazy-headed daydreaminess. Retro-fitted shoegaze? Absolutely. Consider it the pop equivalent of the thousand-yard stare that accompanies an amphetamine comedown — that same heavily-mined musical vein most successfully explored by the Dandy Warhols and Brian Jonestown Massacre.

What I'm most reminded of, however, is the Jesus & Mary Chain circa their debut, Psychocandy (minus the amp-shredding feedback and motorcycle-rock numbers). Back when they first started out, JM&C distinguished themselves by refusing to play sets that lasted no longer than twenty minutes. "No band in the history of rock'n'roll," they explained in an early interview, "No matter how great, was ever so good that they didn't start to suck after twenty minutes." Well, there's something to be said for brevity and staying your hand, especially when — as J&MC knew of their own music — you effectively know only three song formulae and are milking and padding them out into an entire reportoire. And as ZOO13 firmly demonstrates, an EP-length release will do in lieu of a full-length album.

Yes yes I know I know, it's a cliched complaint about the horror vacui brought about by the advent of the 80-minute age of the CD format. Good showmanship rests more on leaving the listener wanting a little more, and knowing when to not linger too long on the welcome mat. Nonetheless, there's a fair number of passable nicities to be found here, if this sort of thing floats your flotilla. The opiated aloftness of "Lions" is given wings by some synthetic orchestral stringwork and a breezy acoustic guitar riff. The more gritty garage chops of "76" harkens back to post-Mod punkishness of euro freakbeat greats like the Yardbirds, the Animals, or the Outsiders. "Sink or Swim" does well for itself with some laid-back, faux bossa-nova groove and light washes of wah-wah guitar. And the band swerve in a slightly acidic country-blues direction on "Devil Laughs," digging in with a bit of low-slung jangle and billowy organ.

The most egregious mark against this thing is that the band opted for some ill-conceieved "concept album" format, filled with between-track "acted interludes" (radio-drama style) that are annoyingly unnecessary and thematic irrelevant. Unfortunate creative decision, that.

[For the curious, check the band's website for availability of ZOO13.]

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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