The best fun in music can often come from bands that create their own self-contained world and then allow you the opportunity of a visit – often a 40 minute trip via an album. Whether it’s the art school lounge lizardry of Roxy Music or the dole queue achings of Buzzcocks, the devil is in the attention to detail. The more finely rendered the detail is, the longer the listener will linger.
Manchester band Monkeys in Love have gone to the trouble of carving themselves a lo-fi universe entirely of their own creation. These pet sounds are populated by men in Keith Moon t-shirts, actors with hair transplants and people who drink gin from cans. The more you look at the detail they’ve created, the more it makes sense. Give it a casual glance, and it makes little or no sense at all.
The musical backdrop to these creations is a rum mix of guitars, recorders, flutes, drum machines and low tech electronica. Sometimes it jangles, sometimes it jingles and sometimes it riffs out – but it always intrigues. These are people with extensive record collections – quite possibly stored in a rigid alphabetical order – and you can hear a dizzying array of influences throughout ‘Monkeys in Love Will Pet and Cuddle You’. The album is handily divided into two sections – songs for petting purposes and songs more suited to cuddling. Obviously.
Sugarcube-ish boy/girl shoutalongs rub alongside twee and slightly shambly offerings like ‘Theme From the Russell Group’. There’s the glam rock shoutalong that is ‘Oh Judy’, the flutey strangeness of ‘The Man in the Keith Moon T-Shirt’ with its Madness-like phrasing and the drone rock of ‘******* *******’s Hair Transplant’. Not my asterisks... that’s what it’s called. Just when things start getting too left of centre, they’ll bring it back to basics with the fuzztone rock of ‘Riffing on Kitton’. The Monkeys have even coined a term for it: Yes Wave. This is a very positive record.
There are also lyrical time bombs that fizz gently through the songs until they are casually let off. In ‘Columbo Shopping’ dual lead singers Laura and Steve Simms-Luddington aim their sights on people who get to the supermarket checkout, only to remember they need ‘just one more thing’. Hence the title.
If it sometimes seems a little obtuse then perhaps seeing Monkeys in Love live might help you. Or maybe not. Co-lead singer Laura often sports a giant cat’s head with flashing lights on it. Like I said, it’s all in the detail – and how long you’re prepared to study it.
Imagine a punk band with prog and krautrock albums tucked under their arms, then you’d be along the right lines. If this was 1983 Monkeys in Love would be on their fifth John Peel session by now and they’d be mainstays of his Festive Fifty. They are that kind of band.http://monkeysinlove.tumblr.com
Review by David Nolan