Monc: Virtual Reality Spacesuit (part 1)


By Ben Varkentine

Monc is another one of those one-man band operations, like Nine Inch Nails, where the creative force is one person working with a floating and rotating roster of musicians as meets his needs. The players essentially become instruments the one person plays. Musically, Virtual Reality Spacesuit is all an extension of the punk/DIY ethos; it’s people have the power pop played on a mixture of acoustics and electronics that sounds like Major Tom Clashing with Dr. David “Dave” Bowman. All in Thomas Dolby Stereolab, of course. It’s all rather cinematic.

This was the first in a series of EPs eventually to be collected into a double album. The second, Guilty (part 2), adds a little more rock especially on the first song, “Guilty”, but otherwise it’s back to being Bowie Rogers and the Enigma of the Flying Lizards.

Though not the staggering achievement some of the media quotes provided with it (and seen on Monc’s website) proclaims, Virtual Reality Spacesuit was a debut of great promise. It seemed entirely possible that the man had a brilliant album in him, but here he was just warming up.

Guilty doesn’t turn up the heat much. Throughout, Monc shows a solid if serviceable sense of songcraft married to a love of sonic novelties, but on two EPs so far he has only come up with one truly memorable song, the title of the first. “Rhetoric” on the new EP comes closest but is sunk by an insufferable lyric. Monc has marketed himself on the web, including MP3 versions of all the songs on his CD and encouraging people to “pirate” his music. Which led me, after hearing his first EP, to assume that he is independently wealthy. After hearing the second, I am even more convinced of this thesis than ever. Which is to say, it’s a truism of music that only those who have money tend to write songs telling the rest of us we can be happy without it, as Monc does here. I think of it as the Sting syndrome, but it goes back to John Lennon, and probably even before him.

My conclusion: Monc is part of a slowly rising generation of bedroom studio mavens whose production abilities somewhat outweigh their songwriting talents. Though he should by no means be dismissed, he’s got some way to go before he reaches the top.

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