CD Review: The Monks

Black Monk Time (Light in the Attic)

With a paradoxical, anachronistic sound that was simultaneously 1966 and 1977 but not really either, the Monks' 1966 sonic recipe was as follows: confrontational, psychotic-rant vocals atop harmonies resembling a maladjusted Gary Lewis & the Playboys; primal drums with Standells-esque organ and fuzz guitar, plus "electric banjo" and occasional blasts of pre-Hendrix feedback; and lyrics swerving between almost-scary, sardonic angst and Ramonesy bubblegum nonsense. In an era when long hair was a rock virtue, these guys not only cut it short but fearlessly shaved reverse-Mohawk bald spots on their heads. With ropes around their necks and clothing as black as their album cover, the Monks were radical even in a time of intense cultural upheaval.

The Monks should have graduated from underground cult obscurity to widespread punk worship when Henry Rollins reissued the group's lone album with bonus tracks in 1997. However, that CD fell in and out of print with relatively little notice. This reissue addresses the obscene lack of commercial availability of these brilliant, historic recordings. The new booklet and packaging are extensive and top-notch. But since the music mostly mirrors the 1997 Black Monk Time, owners of that version should first pursue the collection of Monks demos, The Early Years, 1964-1965.

Michael David Toth