All of those pix of bffs Oberst, Yames, et all, kidding it up in interviews, wallowing in superstar comraderie, chucking each other under the chin. That New York Times article the other day: it’s a bit nauseating and self satisfied and though I have long admired most of the cast of characters in the supergroup Monsters Of Folks, I expected the worst of Monsters Of Folk the album. And I didn’t get the worst though I didn’t get the best either.
For one thing, all of Conor’s song are pretty good Bright Eyesy stuff with the shared sweetness of “Say Please” leading the way, “Ahead Of The Curve,” “Map Of The World” and “Temazcal,” somewhere in the middle and “Man Called Truth” at the end. I pefer the playfulness of “Say Please” to the unbearable lightness of being of “Map Of The World” and while the back up by Ward and James is not bad it isn’t so necessary. Oh and the cat from Slate Jonathan Keefe would make a lot more friends and be more fun at parties if he didn’t write stuff like “(Ahead of The Curve) may be the best song in (Conor’s) catalogue, an opinion that boggles in the mind.
I think that’s a question (maybe answered live) and it is one I often have about Conor: its all fun and games but is it really necessary. We’re not talking about the harmonizing of a Crosby, Stills and Nash; the voices don’t particularly complement each other and hearing James (the best vocalist of the group) singing back up to Conor isn’t a marriage made anywhere particulatly; the camadarie of “Say Please” while fun isn’t final and the trading in verses of “Dead God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” just causes three guys to make asses of themselves instead of one.
Jim James recovers from “Dear God” to pull off the all out rocker “Losin’ Your Head” which sounds so good it might be… My Morning Jacket. Is that Mike Mogis on drums? Whoever it is sounds as though he has a beartbeat and the album perks up considerably though, I mean really, it would sound better with MMJ wouldn’t it? Whatever, the rest of his stuff isn’t as good though “Goodway” -is an alright country rocker.
M. Ward is less alright. “baby Boomer” isn’t the worst song Ward has ever written -and for once I kinda do think the harmonies and trading of lines works to the songs advantage. The worse song Ward ever wrote was “The Sandman, the Brakeman, And Me”. Remember: Zooey Deschanel was doing WARD A FAVOR when they formed She And Him.
So the sum of the parts? Monsters Of Folk are alright, probably a lot more than that live, but they are such a buncha talented well met by moonlight type fellas they deserve the monsters of folk moniker: its all so tasteful, medium cool and unruffled. Pointless but not pointedly pointless. Pretty good, no, really.