Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Monks: Cuckoo

For a while I have been staring with admiration and bemusement at videos of a band called the Monks, taken from German television in the 1960s. An article by Alex Petridis in Friday's Guardian has explained what I have been looking at and inspired me to explore a little further.

Petridis writes:

The Monks were former GIs, stationed in West Germany, who had been transformed by a German management team from covers band the Torquays into the "anti-Beatles": dressed in cassocks, their heads shaved into tonsures, howling anti-war slogans over a primitive, feedback-riven "deconstructed" brand of rock, in which an amplified banjo figured heavily. They attracted fans playing the clubs along Hamburg's Reeperbahn.
He suggests "you can hear something of Krautrock's "motorik" beat in the Monks' tightly wound playing" and says the band is now hailed as figureheads of garage rock - a musical movement they knew nothing about at the time or subsequently. "Unwitting," says one former Monk, "is definitely the word."

The song I have chosen sounds like a lost Frank Zappa track. It is described thus on the Monks' own website:
The Monks' rhythmic attack is intact on "Cuckoo." It's the lyrics and vocals that strike one as eccentric. Burger's vocal opens the tune, swiping a page out of some outlandish Beach Boys' songbook. He nails high notes that no male, unless he's a castrato, should be able to hit. Next, the drummer finally gets his chance to be in the spotlight. Johnston's monotonal singing voice tells an odd story about somebody stealing his pet cuckoo. During the bridge, fuzzed-out guitars and booming drums remind the listener that, yes, this is the Monks. Then, Burger reprises the chorus, jarring the listener back to unreality.

1 comment:

Andrew Hickey said...

The Monks have been a favourite of mine for a long time, ever since I heard Complication on the Nuggets box set. Any band who would shout "Complication! Complication! Constipation!" over a two-chord electric banjo punk riff while wearing nooses and with their heads shaved into tonsures, in 1965, deserves to be worshipped...