“Life […] is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing”

-Macbeth

The Psychotic Monks, existing since 2012, rattle the cribs of infantile fans of the latest brand of wimp rock. I am digging deeper into the edgier oceanic water supply to ring your ears with the latest bands dumping their base sentiments on an overly prudish world like cement off the slide. The journey down is noisy, dark, and in the case of The Psychotic Monks, quite compelling.

I stumbled across these dudes on a KEXP live session. The drummer kicked off the cacophony with two  solitary bangs, like a gust of wind tearing up a few houses before the real storm comes. This 28.42 minute live performance should be enough to determine if you’re with the Monks or against them. There’s really no in-between. The Monks veer into full-tilt auditory assault territory, then weave into dreamlike, somber states. The effect is like listening to good music through short circuiting speakers, complete with cross-talk, glitches, and feedback galore. There are traces of Barrett-era Floyd and VU at their most dreamy in these passages, and on the rock bangers you have snatches of Kraut Rock, bass-driven minimalism, and prominent noise rock tentacles. You could call these guys “stoner rock” too if you wanted to be lazy, and there is definitely a trace of the blasted desert in their riffage, but this is the rare band that manages to overcome their influences, to weave them together into a tapestry that seems new. This isn’t studious template psych or late ’60s hype beasting. The music of The Psychotic Monks in NOW in every sense of the word.

On a track such as “Isolation” the Monks lock in to a seasick and highly primitive groove that just doesn’t let up, sparking a bottom-heavy sense of unease with tasteful use of distortion on the sparse instrumentation. And extra props to the guitarist for figuring out that a Telecaster isn’t required to be twangy. If there’s a contemporary band anywhere near the same league as these guys it would be Black Midi with their math/existential psych rock fusion and anti-harmony, but The Monks bring an effortless, casual sense to the scenario. Their epics are less studied and not as thought out conceptually, which in this case actually makes their music better. You can see why their Spotify listeners also gravitate to earthy, psych-minded fellow warriors such as Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels. There’s a lot of warbling going on with the words, to the point where you can’t quite make out the lyrics, which is no doubt the point. They seem to be singing in English, even though they’re a French band, but it’s all just the same dance with the devil. It’s rock n’ roll. And it’s never going to die as long as bands like The Psychotic Monks are still kicking on the fringes.

Here’s the KEXP performance in full:

Also check out their album from earlier in the year, the enigmatically named Private Meaning First

 

Tina Romano