Next big things? It may be a cliche, but Mona are the real rock deal

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

EV­ERY­ONE’S com­pil­ing their Next Big Thing lists for 2011 and this year it’s quite straight­for­ward be­cause most pre­dic­tions and polls namecheck one of the most cru­cial gui­tar bands to emerge in the last five years. They’re stand­ing in the wings at the moment, lim­ber­ing up for their de­but al­bum re­lease in March (and, from what we’ve heard so far, it will be one of the year’s big sell­ers), and get­ting ready to grace Glas­ton­bury, Ox­e­gen et al with their rawk pres­ence. At this stage it’s safe to pre­dict that they will top many of next year’s Best Band awards. Wel­come please, Mona. These kinds of old-fash­ioned record com­pany bid­ding wars aren’t sup­posed to hap­pen any­more – tele­phone num­ber ad­vance fees thrown around like con­fetti, a band able to dic­tate their own terms. But in Septem­ber there was a gi­nor­mous bun fight to se­cure Mona. The buzz around them has been blow­ing up all year and, af­ter they held a se­ries of open au­di­tions in Nashville, the huge money of­fers flowed in. Mona even­tu­ally signed to Is­land Records.

From Day­ton, Ohio and now based in Nashville, Mona are a south­ern-fried-rock tra­di­tional four-piece who all look like pissed­off James Dean types. Mu­si­cally they come on like the Kings of Leon’s snarly younger broth­ers; in­flu­ences in­clude Sun Records, Ex­ile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones, early Clash, The Black Crowes (on am­phet­a­mines) and Rocket from the Crypt.

It’s un­re­con­structed rock mu­sic, and the way it’s art­fully as­sem­bled – gui­tar attacks and al­most pop-like melody lines – makes Mona a band who will skip through the tran­si­tion from sweaty dive bars (where they were a short time ago) to arena/sta­dium level within a year. These are big, out­door songs that will en­hance many a field next sum­mer.

Front­man Nick Brown makes for a strong sullen/ar­ro­gant pres­ence, which is what you want and ex­pect. He’s al­ready de­clared, ac­cu­rately, that Mona is “the new face of rock’n’roll” and pre­dicts that he will soon be “big­ger than Bono”. Of an early Mona sin­gle, Brown pro­claimed: “I saw how a song could en­rage, heal, speak, love, se­duce, calm, pro­voke, chal­lenge and sur­ren­der. All in three min­utes. That’s what we’re all about. If it lacks pas­sion, it’s not real.”

All of this is, in con­text, very com­mend­able. The likes of Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe are fine in their own so­cially aware an­guished­about-the-en­vi­ron­ment way, but Brown and his boys are more bar-brawler types, al­ready call­ing peo­ple out and shout­ing the odds.

Man­ager Saul Galpern (founder of key in­die la­bel Nude Records) was quick to recog­nise Brown’s tough guy ap­peal. “He re­minded me of a boxer, so driven and so am­bi­tious, so hun­gry for suc­cess in a re­ally good way.”

The de­but al­bum could have been out this year, but a slow build (by to­day’s stan­dards) was favoured so Mona could be seen play­ing live a few times.

If such a fuss is kick­ing up about Mona, it’s be­cause it’s ul­tra-rare these days to come across a gui­tar/ bass/drums band who are so pol­ished and ready-to-go. While the ur­ban and r’n’b sec­tors have been able to throw new acts right to the top of the charts, rock usu­ally needs a much longer lead-in time. Kings of Leon, the last big in­ter­na­tional rock break­through act, had been go­ing for nine years and didn’t truly cross over unitl their fourth stu­dio re­lease (Only by the Night).

Which is why Mona are the new The Strokes – not only will they sell in­ter­na­tion­ally, they could very well have a knock-on ef­fect on the gui­tar rock genre in terms of in­flu­ence and in­spi­ra­tion.

Lis­ten for your­self on your lo­cal video so­cial net­work­ing site; Mona’s new sin­gle, Trou­ble on the Way, is up now and is of­fi­cially re­leased next Fri­day. mys­pace.com/monathe­band

Like The Black Crowes on am­phet­a­mines: Nashville-based Mona

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