Monks of Mellonwah - Ghost Stories EP
Release Date: June 29 2013
Record Label: Gatcombe Music
Perhaps it’s my tendency to find beauty in the mundane—in suburban lifestyle, no-frills musical arrangements, or the everyman story arc mined so often in the songs of Bruce Springsteen, for example—but few things in music strike me with the same level of resonance and romanticism as garage rock. Something about the loud guitars, the relentless drums, the dirty production, the reckless abandon of the songs—they’ve always conveyed to me the power and universality of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s that feeling that the guy you pass on the sidewalk downtown, the next-door neighbor who nods to you while watering his perfectly-manicured lawn, or the long-haired dude behind the counter at the nearest convenience store could all be hiding this secret life within the confines of their garage and the expanses of the music they create inside of it. More than any other genre (or sub-genre, or however else it might be classified), garage rock has this mystique that allows normal guys to become rock ‘n’ roll heroes when they step onstage and plug into their amplifiers, and it’s that sense of relatability that made the 1990s such a vibrant period of music evolution. These guys—the Kurt Cobains and Eddie Vedders and Dave Grohls and Billy Corgans of the world—they seemed strikingly normal...especially after the larger-than-life grandiosity of 1980s hair metal. And it wasn’t even that you wanted to be friends with these people, but that they felt real and alive and somehow close to home, and that if they could hit the big time, so could you.
This is all a very long and tangential way for me to introduce Monks of Mellonwah, an Australian quartet claiming influence from the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but bearing far more similarity to the golden age of 1990s alternative rock. The band’s latest work, the Ghost Stories EP, represents a preview of sorts for their upcoming full-length of the same name. And while the record boasts a fair amount of studio sheen and attention to detail, the overall atmosphere isn’t far away from music we’re used to hearing from other '90s disciples. For example, opener, lead single, and title track “Ghost Stories” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Wasting Light, the recent career-revitalizing record from the Foo Fighters’ (and a modern garage rock opus if there ever was one). Moments later, vocalist Vikram Kaushik whines like Anthony Kiedis on “Vanity,” which might as well have been culled from one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ more melodic discs (think Stadium Arcadium). And the song that closes the EP, the southern rock-flavored “Sailing Stones,” is all blazing Black Keys guitar riffs, martial drumbeats, and Incubus-esque vocals wails.
But the fact that the Monks’ ingredients are immediately familiar actually works in the group’s favor. Despite their loyalty toward Pink Floyd, there’s no misguided sonic experimentation or progressive rock bullshit: these songs all about behemoth riffs, shout-along choruses, and sweaty garage -rock electricity. It doesn’t matter that the edges have been rounded off and the surfaces polished to the point of radio-friendly accessibility. There’s still a visceral joy to hearing a song like “Ghost Stories”—straightforward and innately hummable for 90% of its runtime—kick into a pyrotechnic guitar breakdown moments before it hits the finish line, or to listening as the John Frusciante-esque harmonies bloom on the chorus of “Vanity” and remind you of what the Peppers were capable of in their younger years. It might only be a three-song EP, with just over 10 minutes of space to distill everything Monks of Mellonwah are about. But if Ghost Stories is any indication, the upcoming full-length from these guys is a disc to watch for in 2013’s second half.