[15 August 2006]
There’s a studied quality to this up-and-coming Los Angeles indie quartet, and it cuts both ways. On the one hand, Monsters Are Waiting can be reduced to a sort of primer on what’s hip today: singer Annalee Fery cues up dark, shriek-prone attitude that hearkens clear back to Siouxsie without ever losing sight of more marketable counterpoint Karen O; guitarist Jonathon Siebels (late of Eve 6) can send out sharp Gang of Four riffs or wallow in early-Cure effects-pedal mopery; and drummer Eric Gardner can shift from a hazy Moe Tucker beat to a sharp New Order fill on the drop of a Fery “ah!” With these qualities the band can hide the absence of actual songwriting in a cascade of atmospherics (see the turgid “Nobody”) or occasionally lapse into a workout that suggests they learned their hipster history Cliff’s Notes style, by listening to a lot of Elastica (“Don’t Go”). On the other hand, when the formula gels, as it very frequently does, the band can bash out some pretty delectable new takes on 1980s mall-goth. The title track, opener “Last Goodbye,” and “A Perfect Stranger” contain enough hooks to give Monsters Are Waiting a decent chance at pulling themselves up into national attention, as the band keeps things sweet, simple, and moody. Live, Fery’s jerky antics come off as the pretentious posturing of an art-school dropout, but heard and not seen she establishes a more palatable presence, not substantive enough for the band to matter but certainly pleasing enough to merit a listen.