Everything's A Song, Man: Monkey Power Trio's "House of the Mechanical Sun" Reviewed
The Monkey Power Trio - well, they need some 'splainin, but I've written it all before. Go here and here and here and here to read about their concept and ritual, and here to listen to a long and storyful podcast about them. We're old pals who have never met.
They're back, with the 11th and 12th records combined as one BIG record (literally big - usually they put out a 45 shaped vinyl disc to be played at 33 RPM; this time, it's a 12? shape to be played at 45 RPM) called House of the Mechanical Sun.
And if there were any confusion about which speed to play it at, there's a big warning on the label, which may be in the end my only real contribution to rock and roll history. See the pic? That "NOTE:" line is my fault. Ha!
The other remarkable thing about this release is the cover - or multiple covers. Rather than one of the original crazypieces by the MPT themselves, they opted this time to commandeer other people's record covers. I find this very funny, and think that if you weren't going to buy one already, you ought to so that you can have one of these objets de rock. The cover featured on the MPT site is an appropriated album of JFK speeches (which incidentally I have) but the one I got in the mail is cooler. Check it out:
Dick Contini's Something For the Girls is the album that was "appropriated by the Monkey Power Trio" for my copy (all copies are different). The cover image alone is worth some dough - just look!
But the back cover (scroll down) makes it: the fleeting nature of fame and of fashionability are made abundantly clear, and there may even be some hubris in there. Witness the promotional copy:
"If ever there was a perfect wedding between a musical instrument and a man, one example stands out over all the rest. Critics and musicians agree that Dick Contino has done more to popularize the accordion than any other master of the instrument, in fact, his name has become synonymous with the instrument. This handsome lad has captured the heart of America and he now has over 500 fan clubs amounting to over a million fans. … Here is one of the country's greatest talents." Ever heard of him?
Anyway: inside this fun cover is the next two records by the Monkey Power Trio. So are they good records? Yeah.
The first side, which is the 2005 release, has a couple of great tracks - Meaty Girls is good stuff, and Gallon of Gin is a peach.
(Unfortunately, the band revisit the awful I Love My Life from 2002's Almost Clear with Happy With Myself; I believe I said it back then, and I'll say it again: nobody but nobody should write rock music about being content. Stop it!)
The second side, aka the 2006 album, is the best-recorded MPT outing yet - sounds are clear and separated, and there may be multiple tracks involved. I read somewhere that they had maybe started using home-recording equip, and so weren't intimidated by the confused/annoyed engineer in the corner. But I could have dreamed it.
Another Year is a song about being the MPT and features a fine White Rap (sample: "Like the Vanilla Ice of the 90s/We're flinging the cracker rap out our hinies/Now stand up and be counted/Prepare to be mounted /Cause the MPT is coming each year/My penis is above average.") Aside from that it's a bad song, but the wee moments are much of the MPT's charm. That, and the big obnoxious songs, like Gallon of Gin, or older stuff like I Run From Fights. 2006's big obnoxious song is Little Bill Oshin, which is either about somebody's weiner or about a guy who lives on somebody's weiner. Fine stuff. The party ends with a nice made-up-on-the-spot piece (I'm guessing) called Life is Pain, Right TJ? which deserves a prize for its title.
Get yourself some MPT. And if anyone has any Dick Contini music, I'd really like to hear it. Monkey Power Trio's webhome can be found at this address: www.monkeypowertrio.com