Rock and the Pop Narcotic and Mutant Sound's upload in 2007 or so. Despite my absolute love of this album, I have always been hesitant to give it the description and enthusiasm that I've desired to lavish upon it. Superior Viaduct's boss reissue/remaster has sparked my enthusiasm for the task.
Monitor's lone LP is so rich in ideas, so right on so many levels, Disaster Amnesiac feels compelled to go track by delicious track.
We Get Messages-opening with ominous Farfisa strains from Steve Thomsen, and then picked up beautifully by Keith Mitchell's tribal/junk shop drumming, this tune has always felt to me like it's Monitor's calling card. Disaster Amnesiac is continually blown away by its mysterious, psychedelic vibe. Dig on Laurie O'Connell's stellar bass moves and Micheael Uhlenkott's piercing guitar sounds as they melt your perceptions. Thrill at their call and response vocals as they state their case. It makes me think of some coven or tribe, singing out their story, proudly declaring, "we exist!" And how.
Mokele-Mbembe-featuring the most ancient of musical instruments, voices and percussion, Monitor conjure up a just plain gorgeous track here. It is similarly imbued with the tribal vibes of its preceding track, but the beautiful harmonizing of the band gives it an altogether different feel. Like a summer Matsuri ceremony in Japan, the clacking percussive interplay is filled with feelings of sublime human unity. Wonderful.
In Terrae Interium-the album's first really heavy turn, in which the Monitor goes underground, seemingly giving birth to the entire Death Rock genre, at least its L.A. area sound. Mitchell's sparse, minimal drumming is very effective as he moves the tune by holding back, as are the chanted ghost voices and whirling Micromoog runs and spare chords from the guitar and bass. Do the Spooky Dance here, but remember that Death is responsible for itself.
Herb Lane Theme-Disaster Amnesiac often imagines this song as being the soundtrack to some strange puppet show, presented by the visual wing of World Imitation. After the heaviness of its predecessor, Herb Lane rolls happy-go-lucky, a welcome respite from the musings on mortality of Interium. The group's playing sounds like the Magic Band circa 1970, with Van Vliet having left the room for a few minutes, leaving them to play his skewed rhythms at their own, slightly more relaxed pace, and happier for it. Great turnaround at the end, here, too. Let's have a toast to Herb Lane, whoever he was.
Amphibious-in which Monitor give Devo a run for supremacy in the Science Rock genre, but only after an an intro that features delicate acoustic guitar strumming, big Rock chords, and great cymbal hits. The meat of the tune has a twisted carnival sound, with more groovy Farfisa. O'Connell sounds like she's having a blast intoning the evolutionary turns of some creature. The middle freak out parts belies Free Jazz and Musique Concrete influences before landing our amphibian on the shore of.......
Pavilion-driven by a great mid-1970's style Kraut synth, this song is perhaps another of the band's tribal chants. The clinking tambourine and percussion from Mitchell remind this listener of Hare Krishnas convening in some suburban strip mall, while Laurie's ode to joy gives rise to images of the coven evoked in Messages. Great, by turns Western and Arabic sounding guitar from Uhlenkott rides throughout, funking up the motorik drive of the synths. Joy!
Phosphorea-this wispy, organ-led instrumental also features simple, possibly Surf-inspired guitar and chirping synths. It is evocative of early evenings in SoCal, the orange and pale blue sunsets, the dusty smog and fog of the beaches, the dry heat of the afternoon commute. Yes, its brief duration does open up Disaster Amnesiac's nostalgic poet side.
Hair-is this the first and only example of a band giving another band one of their songs to document? If you read this, and are aware of another, please let me know! The Meat Puppets are the recipients of the honor, and they act accordingly, shredding this tune with a spastic beat that sounds like Hawkwind's drummer OD'd on Lemmy's speed. It's their most Hardcore statement, and, it being the Meat Puppets, is completely free of Hardcore cliche, just ripping energy and freak out power. I think that I hear a theremin in the background, but it could just be Curt's guitar feeding back. It's that kind of performance!
I Saw Dead Jim's Shade-what is one of the greatest LP's of the 1980's ends with this Burroughs-ian Science Fiction nightmare scenario, as Monitor return to their Death Rock side. Spooky Moog sounds are paired with O'Connell's burbling bass and more crunchy Scordatura guitar as the band muses on the final passing of some Jim. The man is giving a damn stately funeral procession, as the drums keep up a steady tattoo and keys march in time. The vocals are particularly disturbed, here. What they saw clearly got to them.
....but wait, there's MORE!!!
Superior Viaduct, in keeping with the very high standards of completeness that are proving so satisfying to their customers (do cop the California Babylon CD/DVD for more proof of that), have also included the Beak/Pet Wedding 7" and one track from an LAFMS comp, Darker Scratcher, Guardian.
Utilizing an insistent jackhammer synth/drum beat, Beak has the group possibly driving away an unwanted guest. The song always gives me visions of some Tahitian ritual, the group members becoming big Islanders in my mind. Disaster Amnesiac seems to recall photos of the performance to which Pet Wedding was the soundtrack. I love the way Laurie intones, "kiss the bride/now DANCE!" to the animal groom. The tune spirals into a Free break down, similar to the one in Amphibious on the LP, before winding down the nuptials.Guardian, the most overtly Industrial track from a group with real ties to the initial burst of said genre, features strange backward tape sounds and jaunty organ grinding.
In 2009, Disaster Amnesiac found a copy of the Monitor LP at Plan 9 Records in Richmond, VA. I dutifully brought it back to California, sure that its grooves belonged more in its home state. At that time, I was still holding out hope for the World Imitation book release that had been hinted at (and has since seemed to have been shelved). Superior Viaduct has made it more possible for listeners in all states to at least dig on Monitor's Psych/Industrial/Ethno/Goth music grooves, if not their visual art, and for that, they should be happy. Do your ears and mind a favor, and find this release!