65. The Monks - Black Monk Time (1966)
1. Monk Time
2. Shut Up
3. Boys Are Boys And Girls Are Choice
5. I Hate You
6. Oh How To Do Now
8. We Do Wie Du
9. Drunken Maria
10. Love Came Tumblin' Down
11. Blast Off
12. That's My Girl
So, punk is born. If The Sonics were the precursors to punk, this is it in a much more defined format. Of course it wouldn't be a big thing until 10 years later but this is undoubtedly some form of punk music. A band playing music as loud as possible giving much more importance to rythm than to melody (actually melody is quite absent) and singing anti-war songs at the top of their screeching lungs qualifies in my book. And The Fall cover them for a reason.
This album was actually recorded in 1965 but only came out in '66, although never in the States. It therefore seems The Monks developed feedback for music purposes independently to other bands credited with it. Whatever. The songs are great, there's an angry rythmic quality to the music which is quite impressive. At times they manage to sound like The Hives with the screeching voice and all, at other times there's more of a The Coral feel or even in I Hate You they sound like Led Zeppelin gone punk.
Of course the album is a bit dated, they were doing this in the 60's after all. But so are the Sex Pistols. Still, it has a freshness unlike anything else of the time and it is a great contrast to most of the other music of the time (we're gonna have the Mamas and the Papas here soon, and this couldn't be more different). So if you want to talk innovative, this is it. And if you want to dazzle your friends with you musical knowledge you can always claim that The Monks are the first punk band, and when they ask "Who?" do you best impression of Shut Up or Complication. That'll freak 'em.
Do buy it, it is quite a hard album to get otherwise, get it at Amazon UK or US.
1. Monk Time
2. Shut Up
3. Blast Off
This shit is so rythmic that I find myself hitting stuff around while listening to it.
The Monks stage garb
At the beginning of 1965, Dave Day and Roger Johnston, on a whim, got their heads shaved into monks' tonsures. The rest of the band followed their lead, and to complete the image, the band took to wearing a uniform - all black, sometimes in cassocks, with nooses worn as neckties. Eddie Shaw later claimed in his band autobiography Black Monk Time that the nooses were symbolic of the metaphorical nooses that all humanity wear. His explanation of the symbolism is unclear and confusing, but regardless, dressed as black monks, The Monks undoubtedly made a shocking visual impression.
They received confused audience reactions at concerts: One attendee attempted to strangle Gary Burger at a show in Hamburg, presumably for perceived blasphemy.
The group's sound
The band abandoned many accepted musical norms of sixties rock n roll:
* They have very little emphasis on melody, their songs are rhythmic, rather than melodic. The rhythms are heavy and repetitive, with the drums supplying a sound often described as 'tribal'. The drum kit was played without cymbals, leaving the beat as unembellished as possible.
* Song structures are minimal and repetitive, but do not tend to follow the standard verse-chorus-bridge patterns of a pop song.
* The band's lyrics are dadaist and playful, yet paranoid. They combine nursery rhyme style lyrics ("higgle-dy piggle-dy") with angry war commentary ("Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam? Mad Vietcong! My brother died in Vietnam"; "People kill, people will for you. People run, aint it fun for you. People go, to their deaths for you"), incomprehensibly surreal interjections ("James Bond, who was he?") and paranoia about girls and love ("I hate you with a passion baby! And you know why I hate you? It's because you make me hate you baby!").
* The vocal delivery is strangled, wailing and frantic, contrasted to deep chanting backing vocals which recall Gregorian chant.
* Gary Burger utilises a great deal of guitar feedback and dissonance (According to Eddie Shaw's Black Monk Time, the group invented the use of audio feedback for musical purposes).
* Dave Day replaced his guitar with a banjo upon which he played guitar chords. This sounds much more metallic, scratchy and wiry than a standard electric guitar.
* Many of these musical elements are also found in sixties New York acts like The Fugs and The Godz in particular, but also The Velvet Underground. When the Monks developed their sound, the only one of these bands who had put out any records was the Fugs; it is unclear if the Monks had actually heard the Fugs or developed their sound independently.