Now that’s what I like, to quote thinking man’s rabbit, Jive Bunny. I like Monkey Rope, though I’ve struggled to get a handle on them. They sound like everyone and no one, though not in a krazy ‘now let’s stick a didgeridoo on this mother’ way. Neither are they feckless shape-shifters, bending with the trends. (Hellooo, my name’s Jeff, and I’ll be your Coldplay/Franz/Libertines manqué for this evening!)
They’ll write one song that bears traces of the Stone Roses’ influence, follow it up with a heavy nod to the pomp of Jethro Tull, and then put the record to bed with a sweet yet creepy ballad. That was all in their last release, Nine Lives, plus a whole load of other stuff I didn’t even get around to writing about. A few months on, their newest demo finds them showing off some more varieties but also starting to find a more consistent sound.
‘Heart Attack’ kicks off in the same vein as ‘Song to Let Out’ did on Nine Lives, driven by a feisty, memorable riff. Funkier than melodic this time, it isn’t as lovely – in fact, it’s not their finest moment – but even so, the band’s fierce chemistry and James’s restless vocal make a fairly ordinary song enjoyable.
‘Supreme’ illustrates their strengths better, as a bright and bouncy verse leads into a gem of a chorus. Spiralling lead guitar figures and uplifting harmonies add to the warm atmosphere. ‘Beginning’ is the stately epic. Call it middle-of-the-road if you like, but what a road. The accumulation of guitars, voices et al., and the growing conviction that James could sing his gas bill and make it sound a beguiling proposition make for an enchanting and surprisingly trippy 5 minutes.
The three ‘bedroom demos’ included show further stages of development. A cut of ‘Beginning’ that sounds very much like the finished track can be disregarded, but the virtually solo ‘Spirited Away’ may be the most touching and open thing they’ve done. ‘Advantages’ seems to be a pleasant song hidden, for now, in strange bossa nova/housey surroundings. Much to play with.
Still, I struggle to sum up their appeal, to get that elusive handle. Then I was listening to the Verve’s ‘A Northern Soul’, and it hit me; that same urgent need to make music, the compulsion to express the sounds within. A song to let out of the heart, if you will. Of course, Monkey Rope sound nothing like the Verve, at least no more than they sound like anyone else in particular. Undeniably though, they sound like soul.
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