How many bands do you know that after decades of making music sound angrier and more energized than they did back in their teens? The world changes, and regardless of musicians becoming happier and grumpier, their musical output tends to wilt.
Thelonious Monster merits the distinction of being one of the few groups who’ve not succumbed to the pressures of time, as exemplified by their new single “Disappear”.
It’s a primal, frantic piece of punk rock, the likes of which their highly-respectable discography only rarely hinted towards. In fact, knowing singer Bob Forrest’s recent output, the introspective, gentlefolk musings of his solo work, as well as the Bicycle Thief record, I expected more of the same from the group’s first new album in 16 years.
It’s not the case at all. While Mr Forrest did reveal in a recent interview with Alt77, that Thelonious Monster’s group members have rarely been more content, “Disappear” boils with the same kind of tension that was the catalyst throughout their early career. The rest of “Oh that monster” is the same. While the 10 song collection strolls through various styles effortlessly, a hodgepodge approach that the group has always embraced, there’s an urgency and a righteous-anger that drives everything forward on this record.
To understand just why Bob Forrest and co. would be feeling so determined, some context may be in order. Mr Forrest’s musical upbringing was shared with his life-long friends’ Flea and Anthony Kiedis. Inspired by the Replacements, he later formed Thelonious Monster. While more stylistically diverse than their contemporaries, the band was part of a vibrant scene that included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone of Jane’s Addiction.
By 1992, Thelonious Monster was signed to a major label. With help from a number of high-profile friends (Tom Waits, Soul Asylum) they delivered an achingly fascinating record. “Beautiful Mess” showed a group whose collective abilities had certainly grown in leaps and bounds. But, the good times were just about over.
Thelonious Monster live was one of the most hypnotic anyone could have the good fortune of seeing. However, Forrest’s self-destructive nature was certainly part of the appeal. The singer did end up seeking help, found it, and now did his best to help others lay hands on a lifeline. Now, with the past having receded, as musical-companion, John Frusciante might say, the L.A. band found itself dealing with some important things left unsaid.
“Oh that monster” deals with issues of violence, societal and personal turmoil, and relates stories of Forrest’s own, vanquished demons. Where some of their older records were a scattered assortment of tunes, this one is highly focused. Whereas their undeniable singing and playing abilities could sometimes be inconsistent, this record is sharp as a blade. Frankly, it’s what their noteworthy discography was missing all these years.