20 Years of Uncontrolled Shows and Ultra Rare Records - The Monsters (Voodoo Rhythm)
Psssssst…..don’t tell anyone but The Monsters may just be the wildest, most uncompromising manic high priests of unhinged and trashy garage rock in the world, or at the least Switzerland. There are a lot of names you can throw up in opposition (Guitar Wolf the most prominent) but I simply won’t believe it until my own abused and bleeding ears tell me so.
While I can’t claim to be a Monsters completist – and let’s face it, much what they do is a variation of what they’ve done before (a la the Ramones) or a skewed channelling of well-known antecedents – I do know that they work on a number of levels. There’s the primitive rockabilly-derived fuzz riffs, the curious rhythmic propulsion of The Clonedum (finally, proof that two drummers are better than one) and the throat-tearing, let-me-out-of-the-loony-bin vocalising of Beat-Man. These are all obvious markers of Real Rock Action goodness. There’s also another less definable factor. In this instance, it's like it saunters up to you like a sociopath at a party. With rank breath, pinned eyes and a voice that’s thinner than a meth addict’s alibi, it slurs: “Can’t you hear that these guys are really fucked up?” Well, yes, actually…
The Monsters come across like the spirit of something born under a bad moon back in rock and roll’s primeval days in the ‘50s has been transported to Switzerland and implanted into their four heads. This is music to simultaneously move the feet and turn the stomach.
It’s a two-disc set that’s almost entirely culled from rehearsals, long-forgotten lo-fi recording sessions or live shows in shitholes in Switzerland, Germany and New York City (I know they’re shitholes because CBGB is one of them and any other places that would have The Monsters would have to be toilets too.) Considering most of the 46 tunes were recorded presumably for band members and friends’ amusement, it’s balanced and consistent sounding. It’s also raw and wild enough to have the neighbours convinced that the landlord or bank has finally had second thoughts and has sent in the wrecking crew.
If you don’t know The Monsters’ music the song titles alone should convey a sense of what they do. “Fuck My Brain Buddh Buddah”, “Out of My Live” (mangled malapropisms are part of the charm), “Psycho Trip” and “I Got the Bain Up My Ass” (not sure what’s going on there) are a representative selection. Lyrically speaking, James Joyce they ain’t.
It’s mostly original material but there’s a familiar moment with a live “Lonesome Town” where Beat-Man’s pained croak simply sits original and subsequent version (Ricky Nelson, The Cramps) on their arses. The soundtrack to a pauper’s funeral. Now say six Hail Marys and pass the cough syrup, please.
If there’s a seminal moment (gotta love dilettante turns of critical phrase in reviews of trashy garage punk) it’s when massively over-driven distorto fuzz guitar cuts in towards the end of “I Kiss You Dead” on disc one, a meat-and-potatoes song in any other band’s hands but the sonic equivalent of a grave desecration when The Monsters cut loose. It all but falls apart in a flurry of searing notes and Beat-Man’s screaming before it’s brought to a (slightly more dignified) close.
Six albums preceded this and word is we may get a visit Down Under at some stage, if not from all The Monsters then again from Beat-Man, whose last trip was criminally under-publicised. I just hope we’re worthy.