A new album from the utterly fabulous Monkeys in Love.
It’s called “Live In New Stoke Newington” and to quote the band “It’s a non-linear concept LP about gentrification and that sort of thing”. It comprises nine tracks in total, all of them corkers. It’s not a live album, to make things clear.
The twin vocal line up of Laura and Steve, as usual, are the focus of matters. It’s relentless, enjoyable “alternative pop”, crammed with hooks and ear-worms, no doubt influenced, in part, by the bands’ love of library music. The easy narrative style is backed by rolling and tumbling rhythms and jangling guitars topped off by cheeky little synths. It feels like all those great tunes that came with pre-millennial TV adverts mixed with superior song craft.
This is the Monkeys in Love sound growing into something new and reaching a maturity that was promised by their previous releases. The attention to detail and the honing of their music into quality product makes this their best work to date.
We kick off with the excellent “Infantalised Man” which puts a strong marker down for what is to follow, Laura pulls you in a with lovely melody, and Steve grabs you by the ears and shakes you around with his trademark biting rap/rant vocalising. “In Stoke Newington” is all 70s rhythms, think Norman Greenbaum backing Adam the Ants, fronted by The Carpenters, but fed through a blender to take it to a different time continuum
“Validate Me” is pure Monkeys, with Laura cracking up over the lyrics half way through, and sexy little synth arpeggiating in the background, with some beautifully placed drum drops. Pure pop heaven. “At New Vortex” is a tale of experiences in music/art venues which should be recognisable to those who have experienced the worst excesses of some performance spaces, a close neighbour, sonically, to Curved Airs seminal”Back Street Luv” the track is rich with lots of little musical tricks. Indifference and lack of wages is the bane of some of the best bands out there, this tune captures that sense of despair admirably.
The exceptional “Cocaine Radius” is the high point for me and feels like something from the 60s, dreamed up by Bert Bacharach, that would fit in with a hip road movie. Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, or someone of that ilk, driving around L.A. in fancy car, with the Mamas and Papas singing in the back seat, in a glorious sunset, came to mind as I was listening. The perfect placement of Danielle’s flute and Steve and Laura’s vocals is simply glorious. At their best Monkeys in Love make me smile, and their very best they bring tears of joy to my eyes. This is one of the latter. Steely Dan were nearly as good as this once.
“Bar Furniture Solutions” allows Eamonn’s full guitar sound to take the lead, lyrically clearly the influence of listening to hours of corporate advertising music have had some influence, with the rolling narrative taking you on a journey around eponymous subject matter, and yes you can make a tale about bar furniture interesting. They don’t sell lampshades in this particular emporium apparently. Only this band can do this and make it something special.
Things get more serious with the heavier sound of “How The Scene Was Blown” which is insistent and the one track on the album which takes a little longer to get into, but once you are there it works. The sumptuous “Stasi Broke The Hive Mind” is back to Bacharach country, easy on the ear, and gentle on the mind.
Matters conclude with “New Stoke Newington Has Been Transformed” clocking in at just under six minutes it’s a memorable epic piece which requires a lot of attention to absorb the detailed narrative. The thing that captivates me about this album is the use of the vocals as instrumentation. Yes the lyrics, and there are plenty of them, are important, but just as vital is the placement of the vocals as part of the overall musical palette. With no overall discernible lead instrument they take on a unique, non-traditional role in a rock ‘n’ roll context, which could be compared with the use of voices in classical operatic works as both vehicles of the narrative but also part of the complex interplay of instruments.
2016 has proved to be a year of excellent music and this is one of the high points. There was one front runner for album of the year before this arrived. There are now two.
If you get it before the release date on 25th November you can get it at a reduced price with some goodies thrown in – go here
Previous writing on this band can be found here and here and here