Saturday, 9 February 2013

Top 102 Albums. No 54. Black Monk Time.

Top 102 Albums. No 54. 
Black Monk Time. The Monks.

"Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time now!
You know we don't like the army.
What army?
Who cares what army?
Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong.
My brother died in Vietnam!"

I came to The Monks as a result of  Black Monk Theme on The Fall's Extricate. Gradually, information on the originators of this track became available and I became more rather than less intrigued. Five G.I.'s dressed as monk's complete with tonsures playing the same beat clubs in Germany that the Beatles had but arriving at a very different destination. The Monks spewed invective at a world they had no belief in. The name, the tonsures and the music seem all to reverberate with a profound sense of dislocation. The lyrics at times sound like random voices from the terraces, observing rather than participating. But then there will be a howl of pain that puts the singer smack in the middle of it all, trying to find a foothold. And then his passion will be undercut again - "Hey, well, I hate you with a passion baby, yeah I do!
(But call me!)"

"Beatles or Stones?" "Oh I always thought the Stones were darker." Well how about The Monks then? These guys seem to have seen the Swinging Sixties on the end of a rope. Songs like I Hate You and Complication don't chime with the Rock 'n' Roll Years view of 1965 when it was recorded. This is the disillusion of punk ten years too early to have got the recognition it deserved. Even Iggy and The Velvets sound like hippies beside these guys.

Pounding organ, electric banjo, rasping vocals and metronomic Krautrock anticipating rhythms create a potent stew. Some of the tracks (particularly the bonus tracks) seem almost standard sixties fare, others tilt your perspective on the era. You can hear what attracted Mark E Smith.

"People kill,
People will for you.
People run,
Ain't it fun for you.
People go
To their deaths for you.


  1. I shall not be inviting these ruffians around for tea...

  2. Replies
    1. I was thinking more Buckfast - "Made by monks, drunk by monks."

  3. Buckfast or a nice monkfish stew just for the halibut.
    It's addictive; some say habit forming (although I found a hair shirt in mine last time I had it...)