Once a year, these old high school buddies reunite for one day to make a 7 inch record. One day. No room for error, you wonder? Oh, plenty of room for errors, but those errors create the sloppiness that has built MPT's fan base. The band members pride themselves on their lack of skill and their steadfast refusal to improve. A funny thing has been happening, though, and possibly even MPT hasn't noticed: they're getting better. And it isn't ruining a thing.
This year's 7-inch EP, Almost Clear (on clear vinyl), begins with a classically sloppy number called "I Love My Life," simple and rockin' with the most basic hook you ever heard. So basic, in fact, you'll be amazed that it's so damned effective. Then things slow down, and while listeners who require virtuoso musicianship might just as well hit the back button here and now, here we begin a pair of wonderfully effective psychedelic punk tracks. The first, "Mike Smith Is Evil," maintains a traditional beat with full drums and bass while guitarist Dan "Deadhand" Richardson and vocalist Mark Maynard take us on a little side trip. Turns out we needed that one to get our imaginations stretched and ready for the title track, the thoroughly mind-melting acid trip that turns out, on closer listening, to be Scientology rhetoric, "Almost Clear." This time, the drums are held to swells and crashes of cymbals that dramatically punctuate the spacey music and the appropriately hypnotic reading by Maynard. The record ends with a very quick and quirky punk tune called "Systematic Problem" that took me a second listen to appreciate simply because I was so blown away by the two previous songs and I wanted more of that. Once I got back in the MPT mind set I realized this, too, was a hell of a song, maybe one of the coolest in their canon.
I'd imagine there are MPT purists who actually shun this record as being too polished. They're idiots, but they're out there somewhere. Fear not, The Monkey Power Trio haven't sold out. They've simply got ideas, and a whole year to think about them between meetings. If they improve as players, it's not a tragedy. The DIY feel is still loaded into the grooves of this record, believe me. I'm curious about next year's record now. The thing about The Monkey Power Trio is you just never know what's going to happen next, and that's one of the best things about them.
(C) 2003 - DJ Johnson
September 10, 2003