100 Monkeys are anything but typical. As their name might suggest, they are a little adventurous when it comes to all things music, but they take their craft quite seriously (in a fun-loving way of course). Sewn together by way of musical soul, 100 Monkeys are Lawrence “Uncle Larry” Abrams, Jerad Anderson, Jackson Rathbone, Ben Johnson and Ben Graupner. Taking their turns playing all instruments and singing (aka the “Monkey Switcheroo”), keeps this group creative, inspired and always creatively challenged.
Images of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie and even some 50s-70s rock come to mind with each guitar riff and note sung, and yet 100 Monkeys are still in a category all their own. Listening to their new album Liquid Zoo (complete with a trippy acid rock inspired album cover) is like a journey through musical inspirations of the late greats, all mashed up with a youthful spin, bizarre yet deep lyrics, and quirky musical digressions. It’s definitely a trip — totally worth the smooth yet consistently entertaining ride.
“The Fair” is Van Morrison meets Jack Johnson with a splash of Bob Marley and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Its reggae+SoCal mix is a little schizophrenic and insanely awesome at the same time. Soothing one minute, trippy the next, it’s unpredictable yet comforting.
Horns and a ska vibe, with injections of New Orleans influence solidifies “The Sound” as a brilliant track. Everyone should “follow the sound”. It’s an ideal summer track, or for anyone wanting a pick-me-up by way of cool music.
“Shy Water”, with its Hawaiian and Elvis-y influence is still very modern. It’s lighthearted melody is juxtaposed cleverly with lyrics like “well on that creaky wooden porch/you can think about what you lost/ while some nurse you don’t know brings you paper cups full of pills/well your pretty lady’s somewhere/lonely and turning gray/what a mistake you have made.” The meaning masked with upbeat sound is just one of the ways 100 Monkeys proves they want fans to really listen to their music and peel through it’s layered complexity.
The delicate intro of “Time” (almost a Pearl Jam’s Black sound ) almost immediately jumps up into an bluegrassy/folk-rock uptempo thrill-ride. Bowie’s influence on the band is hinted at throughout, bridging generation gaps through song. The fast beat with the addition of a flute, is like a 70s movie car chase scene that ends with the cars both plummeting over the edge of a cliff into the cool blue sea.
“Wandering Mind” is more experimental and awesomely delightful with its combination instruments that compete but don’t ever overpower each other. Meanwhile, “Prayer” is aggressive and addictive. As angry voices chant “they are cannibals… they eat their way to eternal life” flute and Spanish guitar bring the sound back down to the ground, and altogether its like something right out of a Tarantino movie.
“Black Diamond” ’s relentless organ tickling and free jazz feel is a breezy enjoyable track with bursts of intensity that keep listeners grooving. It’s background vocals and mic effects are haunting and seductive in the same breath.
Intricate yet stumbling piano and cooing vocals in “Made of Gold” is like Sid Vicious and Bowie’s love child. It’s beautiful, catchy and undeniably a perfect addition to anyone’s driving mix.
One of my favourite tracks, “Invisible Monsters”, is soulful and like stepping back into a 60s high school dance. The song has beautifully poetic lyrics like “I wrote a sonnet on the wall with just my eyes” and a definite Temptations feel. This song is what I’d like to say is a modern “Tuesday’s Gone” with it’s sorrowful message yet empowering sound, and it’s simply too wonderful not to listen to on repeat a few times.
Rounding out the album is the rollicking melody Devil Man. It’s like a childhood song of warning with much more grown-up twist. The happy-go-lucky country-fied ballad is 100 % clever and cheeky and 100% 100 Monkeys.
[100 Monkeys Liquid Zoo; June 28th, 2011 via Awesome Sauce/Warrior Records]
1. The Fair
2. The Sound
3. Shy Water
5. Wandering Mind
7. Black Diamond
8. Modern Times
9. Made of Gold
10. Invisible Monsters
11. Devil Man
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