Published September 9, 2014
A valiant folk-rock effort falls a bit short
The trio of musicians in Monotown (two of them brothers) released their first album, ‘In The Eye Of The Storm,’ this year. The album is a mix of folk harmonies, rock ballads, and up-tempo tracks. The title song is one of the most memorable on the recording, beginning with a Grizzly Bear-like arrangement of strings and layered harmonies, which pauses to transform into a more traditional rock number with warm electronics in the background.
Sadly the close of the first track is where most of the excitement leaves. The album’s lyrics strive for simplicity, but end up with clichés: “my conscience stings me like a paper cut” cuts the deepest. The chorus of “I See” feels juvenile: “Give me love into my bed/from my toes unto my head/please don’t take long ‘cause soon I’m dead.” One of the great things about the English language is how easy it is to make words into lyrics. But it’s quite difficult to find words that, when they fit together, have an energy all their own.
You’ll hear the most character in Monotown’s more driving songs. “Two Bullets” could be the soundtrack for a thriller, and “No More Shall I Fear You” combines the guitar effects of spaghetti western films (think Clint Eastwood) with the fast bass lines and bends and slides of surf rock. But on sparser tracks, the same stylistic traits seem out of place, like a surfboard propped up in the background of an Appalachian band’s photo shoot.
As an album, ‘In the Eye of the Storm’ is beautifully arranged and mixed; amidst the band are background vocals and symphonic sprinklings, and these additions keep the songs alive. After touring, performing, and promoting, Monotown could produce a sophomore recording that tightens up loose lyrical threads, gives room for experimentation, and blossoms into a great record.