Friday, April 3, 2009

the Monks

The Early Years 1964-1965 (4.09, Light in the Attic)

Byline: Feverish Proto-punk from America's legendary Ex-Pats. It's beat time, It's hot time, It's monk time!

For: 13th Floor Elevators, The Fugs, Devo, Johnny Thunders

The Monks' story is by nowlegendary. Five American GIs stationed in Berlin Germany became entranced with the beatnik lifestyle, got themselves dishonorably discharged, grew their hair long and cut out in the center in a friar fashion, they began bashing out proto-garage rants over frenetic church organ bleatings and Gary Burger's  screeching sermons that warbled like a possessed Bible thumper. Like most highly bands from the sixties with cult followings, people give the Monks more credit than they probably deserve. Yes, they were endlessly experimental and ridiculously ahead of their time. They created an unholy racket that legions of Beatles fans would be repulsed by, their songs were heavily rhythmic, eschewing much if any sense of melody. The bass lines are deep guttural drones that are either directly influenced by Indian ragas or southern jug bands. Their distortion and feedback squalls would eventually be hugely influential to Sonic Youth and No-New York's No Wave.  Burger's mostly nonsensical ramblings skirt the lines from Little Richard to David Koresh, from anti-war rants to nursery rhymes. But to start throwing around words like "Dadaist" to "surrealist" to describe a rock and roll band, who, by their own admittance, weren't really sure what they were doing is a little pretentious as well as calling them the godfathers of both punk and krautrock.  Granted, their version of anti-folk, old weird America, antisocial party killer music would go on to inspire some of the most forward thinking bands in the early sixties art scene in New York such as the Velvet Underground, Holy Modal Rounders, and the Fugs. Their influence in America never quite reached the status of the aforementioned bands but the Monks remain an essential ace in the sleeve of any music journalist looking for some instant credibility. Plus, to make this story stranger in 2006 lead singer Gary Burger was elected mayor of Turtle River, Minnesota

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