Los Angeles punk crew hit a sweet spot between hedonism and poignancy on a multi-layered second album
Monkey: Journey To The West
The big question: is it any good? Well, in places. While crucial to the plot, a gruff-voiced pig-man boasting about his magic rake doesn’t have that much replay value. But then there’s ‘Monkey Bee’, a whooshing, motorik pop track that sounds like Japanese synth wizard Cornelius. Meanwhile, there’s some sweet female-sung Oriental ballads pieced together with a mix of folk instruments, electronics and orchestra that, thanks to Albarn’s adherence to the pentatonic scale – you know, stupid, the five-note scale in which all traditional Chinese music is written – have
a surprisingly authentic feel.
If you’re listening hard, you can occasionally spot Albarn’s fingerprints here and there – a characteristic synth flourish, a playful pop melody – but it’s safe to say if you didn’t know that he was involved there’s no way you’d guess. This might be bad news for the Blur devotee eagerly awaiting their next chart hit, but you suspect it makes Damon Albarn very happy indeed.
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