Mondo Topless: Freaking Out

Philly-based garage foursome runs a dozen covers through the Nuggets-O-Matic, with predictable results.

Mondo Topless

Freaking Out!

Label: Get Hip
US Release Date: 2010-05-11
UK Release Date: Import
Label website
Artist website

Like any self-respecting garage band, Philadelphia-based -- and difficult-to-Google unless you're Russ Meyer! -- foursome, Mondo Topless knows its way around a cover tune. For the band's fifth album, Freaking Out, the group (singer/organist Sam Steinig; guitarist Kris Alutius; bassist Scott Rodgers; drummer Steve Thrash) puts their chops -- and their record collections -- on display. And while the band looks beyond the genre’s signature tunes with a few choice surprises, everything sounds like it's been run through the Nuggets-O-Matic... which, for a garage band, is the goal, right? Right?

Repeated questions by annoying reviewers aside, Mondo Topless just wants to have a good time. On that front, they succeed, and the purists and cratediggers will find plenty to enjoy here. Opener “Nothing Can Bring Me Down” (by the Twilighters) sets the template early: Steinig’s vox and organ go crazy while Alutius, Rodgers and Thrash make like every act ever anointed “The Coolest Band in the World This Week” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage.

One highlight is when obscure Brit psych rockers the Drag Set earn a mini-revival with the sinister “Magic Potion”. The Electric Prunes’ Certified Nugget “Get Me to the World on Time” gets an enjoyable, if superfluous, update, as does Sonic’s Rendezvous Band’s “Asteroid B-612”, with Alutius’s wild solo, and its uncanny echoes of the Stooges’ “I Feel Alright”. And I’m sure I’m not the only listener who will investigate late ‘70s Midwesterners the Vertebrats -- whose “Left in the Dark” gets a workout here -- and mid-‘70s Nigerian band Question Mark, who provide the album’s title track.

At the risk of overthinking, Freaking Out represents a bit of a conundrum, both for the band and for the genre's fans. Mondo Topless is a tried and true garage band, on a garage-friendly record label (Get Hip), playing three-minute organ-soaked stompers, per the genre dictates, as codified in 1965. Garage fans -- myself definitely included -- eat this stuff up. So who’s the target audience for Freaking Out's batch of originally non-garage tunes? Newbies hearing the Mondo take on Cream’s “SWLABR” or Camper Van Beethoven’s “(We’re A) Bad Trip” will wonder what the hell is going on (even if the former’s metamorphosis from paranoia to party time is pretty funny). And when the band talks about upsetting the “garage purist”, apple cart in the press kit with their musical selections, surely they know that the self-selected group is the majority, if not the entirety, of their audience.

If you've ever heard a garage band, you know what you're getting into with Freaking Out. While that's certainly not a bad thing, it's not exactly a great thing either.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.