So let’s bear this in mind from the offset, I am definitely not the target audience for Monokens and as such this review should be taken with an ample pinch of salt. However, having a little rant is always fun and besides, we at Yack like to be honest, so here comes our Monokens “Underdog Wins” review, buckle up!
I imagine that most music nerds know at least one person who likes this kind of music and being the music buff that you are you likely refer to them as “that guy/girl who doesn’t really get music” or “wanker”. This harks back to a recent conversation I had with someone on the same page as me about people who simply exist to duplicate real art. There’s something kind of blank about Monokens sound that I can’t describe. It’s almost like I don’t believe they’re a band and that they’re just here to look cool, overcome some personal vendettas or mimic their idols. It’s not just because I consider this collection of songs bland, because bland can sometimes be “edgy” or “shoe gaze” or even “I don’t give a fuck”, which is to say bland is capable of communicating a tendril of emotion. Monokens operate on the opposite side of the scale, with music that’s so technical that it just sounds robotic. Somehow I’m not convinced this is their intention; the occasional stab at a riff punching through the chords is a sign that they are trying to be something more than noise. Monokens are a little bit all over the place, they lack the commitment to stick to a sound and this is the primary reason they for me lack any real substance.
As well as emotive music, I’m a sucker for originality. It’s hard in this over saturated market to really achieve something unique and to be quite honest it’s kind of terrifying (as a musician myself) how innovative musicians have to be in their PR campaigns just to stand out these days. So in that light, I really love the album cover. I do! I’m not just shoving in a compliment because I’ve been too cruel thus far (I also don’t think it actually suits the tone of the music at all). I think these guys know that image is important and it’s worth remarking that because of this I was looking forward to clicking that little “play” button on soundcloud before I even knew what to expect.
Overall it’s a hard album to stick with from start to finish because Monokens are monotonous, but if you do stick with it you will find a couple of pleasant surprises. The high point comes right at the end, like some kind of crippled crescendo. I don’t even mean the last song, I mean the very end of the last song (that’s 4:24 in to “Six Hours ‘Till Morning” if you’re interested). The two guitar parts actually dance around each other really nicely here for quite some time. It may be because the dulcet tones of the vocalist aren’t present here, but in my opinion it’s them at their strongest.
I should also say that Bored, Ignored sets a different tone, it has a lot more attitude than the rest of the album and yes, that is entirely due to the dirty synth pounding throughout the track. I think they should embrace this vibe a little more because of that fact. It’s the same with Down The Street; I just feel more inclined to keep listening when things are a tad chunkier, it creates a facade of emotion that you can’t get by twanging a clean guitar. I use the word facade intentionally here because I think Bored, Ignored is unintentionally their best song for reasons they might not understand.
I have this hunch that if they notched up the bpm in a few songs, the album would not only sound a lot more dynamic but the songs themselves would benefit too. I was half tempted to do this myself in Audacity before I stopped and thought “seriously, what’s the point?”.
That’s mostly just the pessimist in me talking though, so I hope Monokens forgive me if they’re reading this. I should admit, a long time ago I came to the realisation that there’s no such thing as a shit band (having been told I listen to nothing but shit music through the entirety of my teenage years). People simply listen to music for different reasons, so perhaps I just don’t “get” it. Unfortunately I’m just not the right person to review these guys with a truly fair outlook. I am a slave to my gut feelings and my gut feeling with these guys is “meh”.