CD REVIEW: Monkeysoop - Counterclockwise
By Alex Jasperse - 03/16/2007 - 01:54 AM EDT
Artist: Band: Monkeysoop
Album: Counterclockwise 
Label: Sonic Wave International
Production/Musicianship Grade: 6.5
Songwriting Skills: 6.0
Performance Skill: 6.5
Do you remember what it was like to finger paint? Pots of potential, the smell of paint – you could mix and match anything you wanted, there were no rules boxing all the ideas you had waiting to be unleashed. You could transform a picture of a sunny day into an explosion of vibrantly interwoven colours. After finishing your masterpiece, there would be the triumphant reveal to anyone who would give us a moment of their time. It was exciting to convey the meaning behind your work; you were proud and ready to show it to the world.
So if you could go back and look at that moment again, would you still think your work was brilliant? Probably not, but you would recognize what it captured: a moment in time of your imagination.
Painting densely instrumental soundscapes with colours from the metal, classic and jazz worlds, Monkeysoop’s latest release, Counterclockwise, is an all-out collage of musical ideas. Composed of nothing more than a lead guitar, bass and drums, the never-ending flow of musical themes persuades the listener that the powerhouse trio is much bigger than they let on.
Completely guitar-driven, the vast majority of songs are much like a preschool art project. No, that’s not to say that they’re immature and dismissible. Rather that much of the release feels garbled and disorderly with the clutter of too many colours. The work is completely respectable – not to mention droolable for most guitar lovers – but its constant referencing to the influence of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai is a little too heavy. Not that it’s a bad thing to pay tribute, but at the end of the day Monkeysoop does little to take their sound beyond the shadows of their idols.
The majority of Jim Connor’s guitar work on this album, while admittedly quite shallow and one-dimensional (mind you, there is enough to send guitarists back to the woodshed if they thought they had seen it all before), at least makes an attempt to incorporate new effects. Tracks like “Lockhill” are not only chocked full of wicked speed picking and fret board acrobatics galore, but also draw on some quirky pitch shifting and other modulations. Perhaps the one feature that’s worth considerable notice is the obvious effort to redefine the roles of the backing instruments. Indeed, they’re much more than just ‘backing instruments’: Erica Missey’s and Hector Cavaros’s exceptional bass and drum talents manage to do a fantastic job of balancing their instrumental technical prowess with an anthemic arena rocker vibe in tracks like “Seven” and “Snail Damage”.
Typically whenever the equation of guitar + virtuosity is discussed, there is a common criticism: whether or not it is important to play one or a thousand notes. It then gets complicated because either way you go it’s only credible if the artist has something to say and that they say it with their own musical voice. It seems as though Monkeysoop has sought to avoid this criticism by going out of their way to incorporate several tracks that were a “hey, look at me. I’m not doing what all those other guys did”. However, as a result, the failed attempts at trying to play with ambient and experimental expressions, makes tracks like “Little Tornadoes”, “Flight of the Elephant” and “Counterclockwise” sound like riotous guitar paint smears paired with mismatched effects.
There is no question that there is a high level of musicianship on display. Counterclockwise is a hard-hitting instrumental rocker that’ll pull you under its powerful whirlpool of a guitar, bass and drum frenzy. Finding a mainstream gallery to feature this art will be a challenge. But then, just like finger painting, that wasn’t really the point.
The Verdict: 6.3/10
For more information, please contact Monkeysoop at firstname.lastname@example.org
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