Friday, January 12, 2018

the monks - let's start a beat! Live at Cavestomp 1999

The monks (officially, lower case "m") were American GI's who formed a beat band in Germany, found managers who helped them to meld their ideas into something wholly original, recorded an album, split up and were relegated to semi-obscurity until crazed garage freaks (especially Mike Stax in San Diego) discovered their madness, searched for and found the original members. This CD is a recording of their first ever show on American soil, at NY's Cavestomp in 1999. Despite some issues (most troubling was singer Gary's laryngitis), they put on a phenomenal show and played several more times in the ensuing years (including a Las Vegas show that gave me the inspiration to start playing guitar again after an eight year hiatus) before an inevitable breakup due to members passing away. Thankfully, this show was captured to prove that they did not lose any power or creativity in the several decades since their last gig!

The obvious opening of "monk time" is supremely powerful and their sound is perfect - totally monks sound, as if they were still at their height in 1966! Even via CD, this is damn near breath-taking! They blast right into "oh how to do now"and despite his illness, Gary's voice is great, his guitar is ferocious and Larry's keyboards are huge'n'noisy, while Dave (banjo), Roger (drums) and Eddie (bass) keep the primitive cave stomp going. "We Do Wie Du"and "Boys are Boys" follow before "Pretty Suzanne", which at the time was still unreleased and they stretch out the slow, hypnotic beat while Gary taunts "you're not in a hurry, are you"?! The sound is impeccable for the demented circus number "hushi pushie" and the truly psychotic "cuckoo", there is monstrous fuzz in "complication" and Gary improvises his monologue in "that's my girl" and lets out an insane guitar solo worthy of the Velvet Underground!

The group vocals, fuzz bass, crazed guitar and simple, 1-2-1-2-3, psycho beat in "shut up" is pretty damn menacing even before the group shouts out "SHUT UP!" but they lighten up in "i can't get over you" with its damn happy-sounding, nursery-rhyme-ish melody. Speaking of nursery rhymes, the maniacal "higgle-dy piggle-dy" is next, with an insane guitar solo, and then there is the tremelo'd guitar feedback takeoff that appropriately starts off the mostly-instrumental, tribal stomp number (Adam Ant must have listened to these guys!) "blast off!" before stretching out their hymn, "I Hate You", to give everyone some instrumental time - an ironic ending, as they were obviously having a blast. Not knowing any more songs, for the encore Gary calls out "let's start a beat" in the key of "G" and they wail! A fantastic, off-the-cuff finale to an amazing show!

Such an amazing combo! I wish they were still around to continue to show the uninitiated how it's done. A must for monks acolytes!