Hmm. After seeing an awesome, intense performance by Britain’s Red Monkey a while back at The Oven, I dearly want to rant and rave about their most recently released full-length, Difficult Is Easy. Unfortunately…well, it just doesn’t adequately do the band justice. I’m sitting here with the volume on the headphones cranked to the max, hoping that’ll fix it, but it’s just too clean, too relaxed—it doesn’t capture the frantic urgency of their live shows, flailing in weird time at instruments and shout/screaming terse political messages. There aren’t any pretty love songs here, for God’s sake; these are chant-in-unison theme songs for teen disaffectedness, and they just sound wrong played at less than deafening volume. It comes close, at points, like the “It’s human nature! It’s human nature!” warning of “Straight Lines Don’t Fit”, the angry, chime-y guitar of “In Her Own Write”, and the messy ending of “Waiting for Now,” but…not quite. Other than those three, the only track that really shines above the rest here, surprisingly, is the very different “My Bed and Ancestry,” a cool, low-key tune with quiet female vocals and a nice string section.
Maybe I’m being too damn picky. After all, this would be a damn fine offering by any skewed indie-rock band you can name (well, if they were British, at any rate), right? Wire and Gang of Four fans will be justifiably impressed, and even some of those weird Jawbox fans, too. It’s just a case of too-high expectations, I suppose: I wanted to feel the same nervous static in the air as I did bobbing my head and yelping along that night at The Oven. In the end, though, expectations or no, I’ve gotta go with my gut on this one. So, buy the album, it’s good…but go see the band in person or you’re shortchanging yourself.