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4.6 out of 5 stars
Black Monk Time
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Somebody -- I can't remember who, and I don't know why -- but somebody gave me the Monks collection, "Five Upstart Americans" and I listened to it a lot and really liked it. They sound like a garage band, y'know, that does a little surf music, does a few songs about girls, probably wouldn't have looked out of place appearing in "Pop Gear"....
And I like it all right, and started looking into what other tunes I could get by the band. At the time, they only had one other disk out, "Black Monk Time," so I ordered it.
When it came, I looked at the songs and -- damn -- the songs were almost all the same as on "Five Upstart Americans." I was, like, "Shoot, these are just different versions of the same songs."
But I got home from work and put in the CD anyway, plopped my headphones on and thought, "I hope it's at least marginally different...."
And then it kicked in.
Bang!
You know that scene in movies where everybody's at the hop and nobody wants to dance and somebody puts a record on and all of a sudden everybody springs into action?
That's what this was like. I literally sat straight up in my La-Z-Boy and dropped my jaw. My legs, involuntarily, began to do what I believe is the Jitterbug and my hands reached toward the ceiling, trembling going "amen."
Yeah, these are the same songs, but here they're re-worked, streamlined, and gassed up full of juice. The banjo sounds like a paint shaker and the organ sounds like a precision laser. Trust me, that's a good thing. It may not sound like it. But it's a Good Thing.
And years later, this is one of those albums that I drag out every few months and listen to, I can't get away from it and wouldn't if I could. This music puts chase sequences and "Endless Summer"-esque surf footage directly into your brain.
Get this CD, even though you can't listen to snippets of it. Get it, even though you probably never heard of the Monks. Get it. Get it, and maybe someday, everybody will know who the Monks are.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Drum goes PUM. Amplified banjo goes JNK. PUM JNK PUM JNK PUM JNK. Aaaaaaaaah! It's BLACK MONK TIME all DAY and all NIGHT. Neighbors disagree, so I turn up volume. Police come. I don't care. I pay fine. Police leave. BLACK MONK TIME again!
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Will you please post the sound clips of this album? People will buy it if they can just hear it!!!!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Some of the other reviews here seem a little misleading, in my opinion. The suggestion that the Monks were 10 years ahead of the Sex Pistols and the Clash respectively, implies their music was similar to the 70s version of punk rock. It wasn't. Not even close. Though it did have a rival INTENSITY, the sound differs greatly. This is definitely 60s music. The Monks seem to throw together surf, doo wop, garage/frat rock, and novelty music and at times play it with an abandon not unlike the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray", with dizzying organ runs and feedback drenched guitar.
Despite the minimalist approach - or because of it - they were a hard rocking, tight band. They must have been fantastic live. If they weren't very influencial, they were certainly wildly original and their music is infectious and awe inspiring. Although "Complication" is often cited as their best tune, my favorite part of the album is the three song stretch of "Higgle-dy Piggle-dy"(What the hell does that mean? Who cares? Sounds good!), I Hate You", and "Oh How To Do Now"(Which they sing 49 times!). "Blast Off", "Monk Time", and "Shut Up" are great too. The bonus tracks are interesting, but not as good as the first 12 tracks.
If you like a good story, I highly recommend Eddie Shaw's "Black Monk Time" book. The "stranger than fiction" account of his life and times with the Monks is very well written and the stuff of rock-n-roll. I couldn't put it down.
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40 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The German Amazon site has a lot of clips for music from Germany even when the U.S. doesn't have clips.
Go to "home", then "international" then "Germany" then do a search for "Black Monk Time".
You'll find it!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2006
Format: Audio CD
In Germany in the mid-60's, a group of American GI's decided to form a band called the Torquays to play the typical Chuck Berry and British Invasion-influenced music of the day, in some of the same Hamburg clubs that the Beatles ruled just a few years earlier. But then they got out of the Army, decided to stay in Germany, and something happened that completely fried their synapses, and then things got all wonderfully strange. They started to dress like monks and made music that sounded like a cross between a jet airplane and the German Wehrmacht storming across the Polish border. As a result, in 1966 the Monks left us with this stellar example of pure, adrenaline-filled caveman rock n' roll. This is the kind of record that you're either gonna love it or hate it. No inbetweens. It's amazing how far ahead of its time this record was. I hear premonitions of everything from the Sex Pistols to Devo to Sonic Youth to Metallica in this record. Amazing, and created almost completely in a vacuum, nearly completely cut off from what was happening musically in Britain and America. Simply put, they sounded like nobody else of their time. If you love pure, loud as hell, primitive rock n' roll, then surely this album will cause involuntary headbanging or ass-shaking. The fact that there is somebody out there willing to save these guys from near obscurity and share it with the rest of us makes me glad to be alive.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Ten years before the Sex Pistols, five ex-American GIs were hammering out punk music in Germany. Adhering strictly to rhythm, while eschewing melody, the Monks shrieked out songs with titles like "Shut Up" and "I Hate You (But Call Me)" in a most un-Beatle-ish manner. Musically, the band combined feedback, beserk organ runs, thudding bass and drums all the while a banjo (!) clacked in the background. The band actually shaved their heads like monks and dressed all in black with ropes tied around their neck. A huge influence on bands such as the Fall, the Monks only LP was never released in the USA until the mid-90s. Finally this groundbreaking CD hits our shores. It has been hyped, but that doesn't mean the hype isn't true. Buy this!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 2005
Format: Audio CD
I backed into The Monks in the early '90s, true to Monk form, in an unconventional way: I first bought bassist Eddie Shaw's autobiography, "Black Monk Time," then bought the album. The story of five ex-American GIs and their musical adventures in mid-'60s West Germany was so incredibly, improbably wild that I thought there was no WAY an album could be as good as this. Silly me.
Years have passed since I bought into the amazing story of The Monks -- and nearly equally as many have passed since I saw them play their first-ever shows on their native soil (at Cavestomp '99, November 1999 in NYC) -- and it's astounding how this album, now 39 years old, has held up. It also astounds me how this music was created in such a vacuum. I mean, there was nothing with which to compare it, and there still isn't.
The Monks were the first and maybe the best and most ignored punk band of them all. Think of all the things they had going against them: A rock'n'roll band whose rhythm guitarist (Dave Day, ne Havlicek, from Hendrix's hometown of Renton, Wash.) was converted to rhythm banjo. A band whose bespectacled organist (Larry Spangler, aka Clark) sounded better suited for church music. A band whose drummer (Roger Johnston, d. Nov. 2004) beat out the rhythm with the big ol' butt end of his sticks. A band that accidentally discovered feedback ("Monk Time") around the time The Beatles were accidentally discovering it for "I Feel Fine." A band that, in the days when everyone grew their hair long and wore mod clothes, cut their hair short, shaved tonsures into their skulls and wore nothing but black. A band whose singer (Gary Burger) was screaming "You know I hate you with a passion BAAAAYbeeee!" when other groups were singing about love. A band complaining about complication when everyone else was looking for simple songs to sing, telling people to "Shut UP!" when the rest of the music world was being more inclusive. A band whose antiwar stance pissed off people two years before it was hip ("Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam? ... My brother died in Vietnam!" Gary screamed in "Monk Time"). Call them rebels or contrarians, but they were ahead of their time -- and save for the 'Nam references, their sounds of alienation and fury still sound fresh four decades later.
And they sure knew how to write pop songs for their parallel universe. "We Do Wie Du" came straight from The Ikettes' "I'm Blue." "Higgledy Piggledy" rolled out a drum intro similar to that of "I Fought the Law," Burger whipped up a nonsensical, whirling-dervish chant, and the band zoomed off into the stratosphere from there. "Oh How to Do Now" was equally maddening in its throbbing, screaming, bass-beating, organ-pounding frenzy. "Love Came Tumbling Down" was a perfect balance of banjo rhythm, organ passion, busy bottom-heavy rhythm and inspired vocal harmony, done in almost a military-sharp cadence.
It still astounds me how few people have heard "Black Monk Time." I unleashed it on my barbecue friends at our weekly get-together a few months ago, including some old-school punks in their late 30s, and they're still shell-shocked. They had never heard anything like this. If you have any friends who profess to loving rock'n'roll or punk in particular, unleash this monster on them. More than ever (with one Monk recently deceased and the others now in their early 60s), not only is this one of the most essential rock'n'roll albums ever recorded, it's a key piece of the secret history of rock'n'roll that simply needs to be heard. Can you handle it?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2001
Format: Audio CD
An astonishing debut LP, similar to Frank Zappa's own debut "Freak Out" (released the same year, 1966) in the way it fuses the music of the past with that of the future, to end up sounding like nothing else in the present (both then AND now). These 5 American G.I.s stationed in Germany formed a band to combat boredom & dressed like monks in cloaks & shaved heads to attract attention. Which would mean absolutely nothing if their music wasn't so darn cool! Gary Burger's near-hysterical voice yelps out extremely nihilistic (& often hilarious) lyrical gems ("I hate you/But call me!") over tribal beats & surrounded by fuzzed-out guitar/bass/organ noise and, strangest of all, an amplified banjo, here used exclusively as a rhythm instrument, its syncopations lending some songs a kind of demented jug band/Dixieland feel. Plus lots of feedback! Calling it punk isn't inaccurate, altho it's more the '60s garage variety than the '70s version. In any event, it's a shame that a North American release took over 30 years! The Monks were easily as advanced & prophetic as contemporaries The Who, Byrds or Yardbirds. That this music exists at all is amazing; that it was created by a bunch of guys "unhip" enough to join the Army, even more so. (One very minor complaint: too many "Trucker's gear shift" key modulations.) Finally, the final 4 songs are singles recorded & released after the LP. They're polished up, sweetened up & unfortunately not very good - with one exception. "He Went Down To The Sea" is a superb art-rock gem exactly like the sort The Who were then doing: Tension-&-release dynamics, tom-tom crescendos, a mid-song brass break & a simply thrilling Gary Burger vocal that'll make your hair stand on end at the word "starlight"
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I was reading an article by a German musician from the 70s that I admire, and he mentioned the Monks in this article, and how seeing them changed his life.. I was entranced by the glowing raves he gave these 5 ex-American GI's... later still, Julian Cope's book on Krautrock also paid homage to the Monks, so I had to get their debut lp..
Damn! I was blown away by the ferocity of it! Pure 60's style punk (very different from 70s punk, though many of the musical sensibilities are similar- 60's punk was even more raw than 70s punk) mixed with anti Vietnam war statements well before the counter-culture made it its catch phrase...frenzied guitars, banjos, feedback, screaming, venomous lyrics, primal drumming..its all there.. its hop time! It's MONK TIME!!
And to show that the Monks have made it, albeit way too late, the intro to "Monk Time" is currently being used in Powerade commercials..listen for the pulsating organs, mixed with the drums and banjo on those commericlas, and its a small microcosm of the Monks.
One of the most bizarre and frenzied lps in my personal collection, "Black Monk Time" is a bona fide gem that is a must for anyone who can't get enough 60's punk/garage music.
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