Melding the cerebral with the downright carnal in “Wild Horses.” Punishing a modest beat with molten-hot melodies in “Rockstar.” Circling traditional pop/rock foundations with a vicious alternative rock edge in “Angels Crowded on the Bedside.” Playing out unwritten, unheard Beatles beats in “The New Rome.” In their new album Meet the Monks, Magnet Monks are looking at the past through a very modern perspective on what alternative music can and should be after decades of cultivation from beneath the radar of most mainstream listeners, and despite the vast ground it seeks to cover, you’re not likely to find another LP quite as cohesive and well-planned in design in my opinion.
Magnet Monks rely on rhythm to catapult the catharsis into another world for “Foxhole,” but they’re a little more verse-focused in “Up on the Mountain” and “Circus.” Emotional confessions? “Golden Cages” alludes to an enigma as grand as the sway of “Geronimo” is at the right volume. Across every song in this eleven-part tracklist, you’re going to hear a lot of authenticity that has been difficult to consistently count on from the majority of major label players I’ve heard in 2020, and for the discriminating listener like myself, this makes Meet the Monks an instant classic.
There are plenty of great grooves from start to finish in this album, but of those that captured my heart the very first time I ever listened to the LP in its entirety,” “Foxhole,” “Golden Cages” and “Over Our Heads” were really difficult to get out of my mind in the hours that followed. The beats are half of the charm in Meet the Monks, with the other coming in a combination of polite harmonization (“Angels Crowded on the Bedside,” “Rockstar,” “Ulysses”), visceral chemistry (“Wild Horses”) and moments that owe something to a millennial-style grunginess few have been able to successfully adapt for their own purposes (“Geronimo,” “The New Rome”).
There are no throwbacks, but it’s clear Magnet Monks appreciate the roots of alternative rock where it matters, particularly in regards to their use of distortion, noisy melodicism and a postmodern sensibility in their lyrics that can go either way for non-solo acts.
The musicians comprising this band aren’t well-known to most listeners outside of California, but in Meet the Monks, they sound like the indie rock heroes that a lot of audiences around the country have been hoping to hear in 2020. Although a think that a live record might actually capture the spirit of their identity a little better than anything made in the studio would, Magnet Monks offer a curious introduction to what they can do together in this LP that is going to raise some eyebrows among alternative aficionados this autumn, but if you keep up with the indie beat as closely as I do, you already know that the underground could use a little action to wake things up amid the international lull in quality output. I like this sampling of their personality and am looking forward to hearing what they do with it in the future.