Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Album Review: Monsters Of Folk
The comparisons have been made to death that the highly-anticipated, super-hyped Monsters Of Folk sound like a new-age Traveling Willburys. While the Monsters of Folk is made up of some of indie-rocks most influential artists, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, M. Ward and Mike Mogis, the only similarity I see between the Monsters and the Wilburys is that they are both super groups with a shit ton of potential. I think this debut album is good, but it’s not great. The collection of songs from this four-headed monster (no pun intended) feels a little too scattered to be called great. Firstly, Oberst leads so many of the songs that the rest of this super talented group ends up feeling like a backing band for Mr. Bright Eyes. Anyways, the album opens with “Dear God (sincerely M.O.F.), while the title of the song is super lame, the use of drum machine, dream like harpsichord and crooning from Jim James is much worse. Not to mention that the each lyrical phrase begins with “Dear God”. The lyrics are far too literal and really not my cup of tea. The album is really up and down from here. “Say Please”, the obvious radio single is quite catchy and showcases each member of the band nicely. Not an overly original sounding tune, but its infectious none-the-less. A few songs down the line we get “Baby Boomer” which nicely contrasts M. Ward’s dusty voice with Oberst’s shaky singing style that I simply can’t help but dig. Next up is the twangy, country tale of “Man Named Truth”, which I believe is the highlight of the album. The song is full of psychedelic imagery. Oberst takes you on a trip (no pun intended once again) to the Middle East. With lyrics like “And I fell in love with identical twins, they lived 34 summers between the two of them. I gave one my ego and one my id, I gotta get back to my pretty little twins”, it’s clear that Oberst has been reading up on his Freud. Things get really strange as he belts out “I met a black skinned man with an ice cream grin, and a blonde Afghan with that heroine. I moved to the mountains where the highway ends, and I got myself that ice cream grin” amongst a whirlwind of telecaster guitars, banjo and windy sounds. “Goodway” is another quick, weak tune that easily could have been left off. Perhaps my real issue with this album is that its potential greatness is hindered by too many songs. 15 tracks could have been cut down to a manageable 10 in a heartbeat. The album does grow the more I listen, but I’ve had to go out of my way to listen instead of wanting to listen. I’ll give the band the benefit of the doubt and assume the mass amounts of blogger hype freaked them out. Ultimately, the only thing that's scary about these Monsters is their lack of song discretion.