Raft of Dead Monkeys’ album Thoroughlev is absolutely one of the best albums to come out this year. It is reminiscent of the work of great indie-rock bands like the Pixies and even Nirvana. With a punk sensibility earned from years with different punk bands, the members of this group have crafted an album that is somehow both comfortably old and strikingly new. Chunky guitar riffs, thundering drum sections and a simple yet hard bassline blend perfectly to create an album full of indie-rock anthems for a new generation of kids brought up on the Backstreet Boys and “rock” bands like Matchbox-20. Long live this group of musicians that has blown apart the cliché that maybe, just maybe, rock and roll is dead. Rock lives on in albums like this.
“Running Hot Tonight”, the first song off the album (not including the introductory track “This Is Us”), explodes out of the CD player with a vitality not felt in most rock albums these days. Obscure poetics and simplistic garage rock blend together to form a potent mixture of rock for the new millennium. All of a sudden it’s OK that Pavement broke up and Radiohead is off exploring deep-space sounds, because we have the next generation of indie saviors right here in our midst. “Black Stripper” and “Bad Horsey” both have the same energetic feeling that leaves the listener dying to start a mosh pit right there and duckwalk around the room.
Even the names of the songs evoke a punk-rock-leave-me-the-fuck-alone feeling that most bands don’t have now. Instead of the whiny feeling that many albums from the underground leave me with, Raft of Dead Monkeys seem to be content to tell listeners to go away if they don’t like it or understand it. Two instrumental tracks that bookend the album are called, aptly enough, “This Is Us…” and “…You’re Not Us”. And those statements are the core of this indie-rock band’s philosophy. They seem to make music because it amuses them and provides a creative outlet, not for me or any other critic to decide what it means or why it exists. And that is the reason that this album speaks to me more powerfully than almost any other album this year. It’s about creativity and feelings, not about record sales or critical acclaim.
After gushing about this album for the previous paragraphs, I have to note that, like any other release, this one has some problems. The booklet contains no lyrics, which is a problem when the singer screams or moans gutturally. Most of the lyrics can be picked out but some can’t and I feel as though I might be missing some brilliant philosophy on the state of life in our modern age. That may be taking it a little too far, but regardless, I think the listener may want to have some understanding of why these boys are angry and loud. The only other problem is that the two instrumental tracks that bookend the album seem to go on for too long. Too much feedback without any resolution makes me want to skip the track and listen to the rest of the album, and hopefully these artists don’t want any of their music regarded as filler.
This is the type of album that makes me pray for more rock and roll. It is pushing the limits of what the music industry is doing while still staying true to the DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic that made punk so accessible to masses of teenagers. Buy this album, support a band that is trying to make rock into the force that it was and the art form that it could be.