Ter­rell’s Tune-Up

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Steve Ter­rell re­views a rere­lease by The Mon­sters


Back in 1986, decades be­fore he be­came an in­ter­na­tional play­boy and record-in­dus­try ti­tan (he’s supreme com­man­der and pres­i­dent for life of Switzer­land’s Voodoo Rhythm Records), young “Beat-Man” Zeller was just a hopped-up young punk rocker who got to­gether with some like-minded cronies and formed a fierce lit­tle band of Swiss mis­cre­ants called The Mon­sters, which had a deep affin­ity for clas­sic Amer­i­can garage rock and loud grat­ing noise.

Hard to be­lieve, but Beat-Man and his Mon­sters are still around, older (Beat-Man’s push­ing fifty!) but just as dan­ger­ous. And to cel­e­brate 30 mon­strous years, Voodoo Rhythm is re­leas­ing not one but two records. One will be a new al­bum, com­ing later this year. The first is a rere­lease — with added bonus tracks — of one of their long out-of-print early al­bums, The Jun­gle

Noise Record­ings, orig­i­nally re­leased on a Ger­man la­bel called Jun­gle Noise.

Although Voodoo Rhythm’s press re­lease pro­claims, “This is where prim­i­tive rock ’n’ roll chain­saw mas­sacre trash garage be­gan,” Jun­gle Noise, recorded in 1994, was not the first Mon­sters al­bum. There were at least a cou­ple of proper (I use that word in a rel­a­tive sense) stu­dio records, in­clud­ing their pre­vi­ous al­bum The Hunch (the ti­tle be­ing a tribute to West Vir­ginia wild man Hasil Ad­kins), which was ba­si­cally a psy­chobilly ef­fort full of songs about movie mon­sters.

But by this point, Zeller wanted a rawer sound for his band, which was now a trio. In­stead of go­ing to a stu­dio, the mu­si­cians rented some record­ing equip­ment and did the al­bum at home. They re­placed their stand-up bass, a sta­ple of their early record­ings, with an elec­tric bass. And Zeller let his gui­tar go crazy with the fuzz and feed­back. As the ti­tle of the open­ing track sug­gests, the re­sult was a joy­ful in­vi­ta­tion to “Psych Out With Me.”

The Mon­sters at this point were still fond of hor­ror ma­te­rial, as ev­i­denced by their up­tempo cover of Kip Tyler’s 1958 spook­a­billy tune “She’s My Witch,” and songs like “Rock Around the Tomb­stone,” “Skele­ton Stomp,” “Plan 9,” (an ode to Ed Wood’s outer space vam­pire movie), and one about a mummy (with a ti­tle we can’t print in a fam­ily news­pa­per), in which Beat-Man’s trade­mark gravel voice sounds like a bizarre blend of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Tu­van throat-singing, and Pop­eye.

There’s a mar­i­juana song here called “The Pot” in which the music is a mu­tant grand­child of the Is­ley Brothers’ “Shout.” And there are spir­ited cov­ers of The Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire” and Ricky Nel­son’s “Lone­some Town,” though I ac­tu­ally pre­fer The Mon­sters’ live ver­sion on their 20th an­niver­sary al­bum The Worst of Garage Punk Vol. 1, in which Beat-Man com­i­cally weeps hys­ter­i­cally dur­ing the in­stru­men­tal.

All in all, The Jun­gle Noise Record­ings is a pin­na­cle of trash rock. And it whets my ap­petite for the up­com­ing new Mon­sters al­bum.

Also rec­om­mended

▼ Tum­bling Heights by The Come N’ Go. Here’s another Swiss band that cut its prover­bial teeth in the crazed world of garage-punk. On this, The Come N’ Go’s fourth al­bum for Voodoo Rhythm, the mu­si­cians prove they can play it fast, fu­ri­ous, and trashy like their la­bel­mates The Mon­sters. But they also go psy­che­delic on us. This al­bum shows the band still work­ing hard to get our butts shak­ing. But they also seem in­ter­ested in get­ting our minds ex­pand­ing.

The al­bum starts out with a tasty rocker called “Château Pho­quoe­upe” as well as an in­tense lo-fi cover of Bad Brains’ “At­ti­tude.” Even more im­pres­sive is the six-minute song called “Lemmy,” a good rockin’ tribute to the late Mr. Kilmis­ter. But “Lemmy” showcases the in­trigu­ing di­chotomy of this al­bum. The first three or four min­utes are ba­sic and catchy, then evolve seam­lessly into a lengthy feed­back/noise-skronk roar.

The short-but-sur­real “Bor­der­land” is even more crazy. It starts out with some dis­cor­dant am­bi­ent noise joined later by a fe­male vo­cal­ist. And on some songs, such as “Yona’s Blues,” they can ac­tu­ally be melodic as well as spacey. On “I’ll Sing You a Song,” the melody sounds like some folk song right on the tip of your mem­ory. It’s col­ored by feed­back and what sounds like a dis­tant har­mon­ica. And speak­ing of folk­ish sounds, “What Is It?” (which could have been an apt ti­tle for the whole al­bum) fea­tures acous­tic gui­tar and what might or might not be a flute em­bel­lished by elec­tronic feed­back that al­most seems to be in har­mony.

While Tum­bling Heights has lots of dif­fer­ent di­men­sions to pon­der, and I do en­joy the psy­che­delic touches, the songs I like best are the ones in which The Come ‘N Go don’t for­get they’re a rock ’n’ roll band.

You can get more in­for­ma­tion about both The Mon­sters and The Come N’ Go at www.voodoorhythm.com. ▼ Who Sold My Gen­er­a­tion by The Night Beats. Now here’s another band that’s of­ten de­scribed as psy­che­delic. In­deed, this Seat­tle trio draws from the bet­ter bands of the Sum­mer of Love. The song “Shangri Lah,” for in­stance, owes a debt to The Elec­tric Prunes. The Night Beats are fre­quently com­pared to psy­che­delic rangers like The Black Angels, though with singer Danny Lee Black­well of­ten singing in falsetto, a bet­ter com­par­i­son might be The Oh Sees.

But this group has a lot go­ing on, in­clud­ing a sub­tle in­flu­ence of soul and funk if you lis­ten close enough (and you should). With a ti­tle that’s a sweet nod to Pete Townsend’s old group, Who Sold My Gen­er­a­tion is a solid se­lec­tion of songs. Black­well knows the power of the riff. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery one of these songs has hooks that stick to your brain.

Among the high­lights are “Bad Love,” which fea­tures a sax sec­tion; “Porque Mañana,” which is sung in Span­ish, “Egypt Berry,” which fea­tures a faux-Mid­dle East­ern gui­tar riff and a melody that re­minds me of “End­less Sleep,” and “No Cops,” which ain’t coun­try but sounds as if Black­well’s been lis­ten­ing to Waylon Jen­nings’ cover of “Ain’t Liv­ing Long Like This.”

For more on The Night Beats, see www.heav­en­lyrecord­ings.com/au­thor/night-beats.

Hard to be­lieve, but Beat-Man and his Mon­sters are still around, older (Beat-Man’s push­ing fifty!) but just as dan­ger­ous.

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