[…continued from last post]
Following a burst of glorious backing vocals singing the refrain “now the sun is in the sky again” I think I heard, yes!… a mellotron! This was immediately shaping up to be a stunner of a Pop song. “The Sun Is In the Sky” was built on a repetitive rondo of music that looped for the entire song, with that amazing backing vocal refrain repeated at the end of each bar. With no melodic development to speak of, the players were free to embellish their parts throughout the song with the structure to fall back upon; keeping the whole thing adroitly spinning as Dr. Robert pulled lyrical couplets out of his back of tricks that just kept the rondo circling until it ended, once more, on that glorious backing refrain.
“Stay Now” brought new colors to the Blow Monkeys toolkit with tremolo guitar weaving a spell through the song which balanced on a tightrope between Country, Soul, and Gospel genres. With soulful sax and touches of honky tonk piano and organ adding feeling to the breakup song; it showed that Dr. Robert could also rock a Country Music career if he wanted.
The lowing sax and swaggering vibe to the Blues vamp that was “Shadow Boxing” was one that we could really hear the mooted Chuck Berry influence on. Especially when the guitar kicked in. At this point one really has to remember that this band was making [brilliant] House Music tracks nearly thirty years earlier. What other House artists were cutting a groove this wicked at any other time in their careers? The solo that Neville Henry took in the coda on sax was a thing a greasy beauty to gladden our hearts.
The jaunty title track managed to carry on the rollicking vibe from the previous cut admirably well. The syncopation of the guitar giving off whiffs of Marc Bolan that were entirely intentional, I’m sure. Meanwhile, the album ended on a plaintive note with “The Lions Of Charing Cross” and its lament for the London vanishing under the predatory gaze of the realtor! It was a lazy and reflective song that gently drifted onward and outward over its nearly seven minute length. Half of it coda that made me recall the similar vibe to the great “Soul Awakening” by China Crisis.
But wait! There was a bonus track included on the DL version of the album! Which I also received immediately when ordering the CD from the band’s Bandcamp store. And while it’s not listed even there, “Coming Up For Air” was a loose, greasy rocker fully in keeping with the underlying vibe that helped to define this album, recorded live in the studio with the VIP pledgers who helped make it happen actually appearing on the album at the end as they applauded. It’s so loose we can even hear Dr. Robert calling out direction to the band as it was recorded. It was a light-hearted note to bring this exceptionally direct Blow Monkeys album to a close.
“If Now Now, When?” was a dazzling new addition to the Blow Monkeys canon. The album was grounded by a thread running through it that called back to the simpler, more direct Rock and Roll of the lats 50s, but in that it was reinterpreted in a future many years ahead of that time, it ended up being in the vein of one of Dr. Robert’s biggest influences: Marc Bolan and T-Rex. Certainly four of these eleven songs had a similar chug and bop to them. Of course, though that was the brief, we can’t expect The Blow Monkeys to not follow their muse wherever it wants to go.
This time out we got several new directions, as usual. And anyone hearing this having only been familiar with their 80s hits would not have very many touchpoints of continuity. Such is the possible quandary of The Blow Monkeys. In a market that prefers stasis and reiteration, this band is to restless to ever make the same album twice. Only their debut album hangs together as a unified, coherent statement. Even “Animal Magic” had the cheek to add an incongruous barber shop quartet number and telegraphed their third, high-80s album with the hit “Digging Your Scene.”
And I’m more than fine with such eclecticism. This is a tight album of 47 minutes [with bonus track] that is all wheat and no chaff. If I play it, the immediate impulse afterward is to…play it again. And that’s an enviable position for any band to be in, much less one whose career spans the 34 years as evidenced here with “If Not Now, When?”
Next: …It’s Out There