The Monkeywrench CD review by Joseph P. Larkin
Apr 18, 2008, 17:02
THE MONKEYWRENCH Gabriel's Horn CD
2008 is proving to be an especially active year for Mark Arm and Steve Turner, they of Mudhoney and countless other Seattle-based rock 'n' roll combos—not only is it the 20th anniversary of Mudhoney's birth and first appearance on vinyl, an anniversary which will spawn no less than one new release and one reissue from the aging grunge group, but their psychedelic-blues side-project The Monkeywrench, the lineup of which is rounded out by Big Boy Tim Kerr, Gas Huffer/U-Men's Tom Price and Martin Bland of Lubricated Goat, is turning seventeen this year. The Monkeywrench's 1992 debut album Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog mined a decidedly white boy blues territory while 2000's Electric Children showcased the super-group's more psychedelic side; well, Gabriel's Horn is like an unholy union of those first two LPs, with psychedelic blues freak-outs aplenty (“Crystal Brown Vibrations,” anyone?), though the emphasis here is back on the blues. Having said that, don't expect a bunch of stripped-down weepy acoustic tracks about the ways in which some woman hath done Arm wrong. Instead, expect a lot of screeching, wailing away and gnashing of teeth, as Gabriel's Horn is a more aggressive beast than the first two Monkeywrench offerings. And while it might not be fair to compare the two bands' efforts, Gabriel's Horn is better than the last two Mudhoney albums put together; I feel comfortable saying that because, hey, the boys in Mudhoney have always been charmed by the blues and psych-rock, so it's not like the comparison isn't entirely fitting—both bands' sounds draw heavily from the same influences. Of course, there's also plenty of country music tossed into The Monkeywrench stew as well (hey, this is the band that once covered Hoyt Axton's “The Pusher” for a 7-inch, after all).
Most of the tracks on Gabriel's Horn are originals, but The Monkeywrench is keeping up its tradition of including three covers on each album by including three covers on this album. As in the past, these covers are mostly throwaways (you may disagree with me if you've been dying to hear Mark Arm's vocal stylings on the George Jones classic “He Stopped Loving Her Today;” fun fact: he stopped loving her 'cause he died), but they're good fun, I suppose. Lyrically, “good fun” is the last way I'd describe most of the songs on Gabriel's Horn—I think “bleak” is more accurate. This shit, like my last relationship with a woman, is downright soul-crushing! Has Mark Arm been going through a rough time lately? Whatever. Hey, this is supposed to be the blues, so it's not like we should be expecting good vibes anyway.
Yup, kids, The Monkeywrench is back! (Not that any of you were losing sleep over the band's possible lack of returnâ€¦) If you like your blues tinged with psychedelia, then you'll like this album. Likewise, if you want your psychedelic rock to make you sad you will no doubt be tickled by Gabriel's Horn. If you like your music thoroughly crunked, well, this is not for you. Sorry. [Birdman]
-Joseph P. Larkin