on 31 October 2000
Once upon a time the Monks were 5 ex-GIs playing R&B and instrumentals as the Five Torquays on the German club circuit. They met up with a German management team with ideas and the music got transformed into something more brutal and repetitive. The music was stripped down to its basic elements, with a concentration on the rhythm. The resulting LP, Black Monk Time, sounds like nothing else that was around at the time - it appeared out of nowhere and disappeared to nowhere, for a while, anyway. Songs (chants?) like Shut up and Complication feature chanted vocals, clanging electric banjo, mad organ and a football chant-like rhythm. Nowadays the Monks are filed alongside the Stooges and the Velvet Underground but they stand on their own. If you like Black Monk Time then think about picking up the demo album Five Upstart Americans. It's poppier and more repetitve (in a good way) than BMT and provides the ideal introduction to the Monks for the under-fives - get them hooked young.
on 6 April 2000
Just the hottest most jumping baddest most thumping surf-punk-rock'n'roll-beat-scuzz album ever ground out - and in 1966, too! (not that the date matters - it could have been recorded yesterday). From before the rulebook was written, so it makes complete sense to have chewed-up organ and distorted banjo accompanying the rabid yelps and outright evil nonsense of The Monk's fevered, evangelic vocals. I heard it was the great lost cult rock'n'roll album - that's such an understatement; it's the greatest rock'n'roll album ever cut, no word of exaggeration.
The twist comes at the end of this cd, where the singles they were forced to make by their record company are included - they were selling zero records, so were told to sound "commercial". Well, they tried their best - it sounds nothing like the racket of the album, but if they aimed at pop it was a complete girl's throw - not even close. How anyone could consider the anodyne dementia of "Cuckoo" likely to appeal to a mass market is beyond me.
If you love rock'n'roll, you must hear this album.
on 9 August 2004
Black Monk Time. 3 words and a sentence. Confusion, darkness, austerity rotting into decadance...Now.
This album is proof that punk was simply a label for a cultural current that had existed for decades. Emotionally and lyricly this is as punk as it gets: desperate, naive, angry.
Musically this is 60s pop, but taken in a strange and dark direction. There is no deliberate attempt to be avant-garde or artistic, this is mainstream music accidentally reinvented by marginal people. These songs are pure punk rock'n'roll in the way the Ramones or the Rezillos are, but there is no postmodern distance, no implied irony.
You can taste the isolation that this record was made in, and this is what makes it truly special. The Monks exist outside the conventional history of popular music. You cannot place them alongside The Stooges or VU in a Q magazine history of punk music.
on 12 January 2010
Got this album on the strength of the reviews on Amazon and its historic reputation and man this thing is fantastic! The production is crystal clear and the songs, my god, I cannot believe it is 1966! The rythem section is so ahead of the game its not funny and the hooks are incredible. It is impossible not to move when this is playing.
Standout tracks being, Monk Time, I Hate You and Drunken Maria although there is not one weak track in sight with the possible exception of Thats My Girl, but seeing that this is the last track, it is hardly a problem.
Fans of Early Stooges and garage in general will love this. Reminiscent of early Kinks and The Who, but in my opinion outstrips both and that is saying something. This is often compared with the Sonics debut and although this is simailar in style, it is no where near in terms of production or song quality.
In short, this is one those rare artifacts: a genuine lost classic from the sixties that lives up to the hype
It seems a bit odd to give this five stars, since a lot of it is disappointing rubbish. Yet The Monks are a hugely important band, even though their career essentially consists of a few recordings made in Germany in 1966.
Anyone interested in just the sound should listen to the first half, and especially 'I Hate You' and 'Oh, How to Do Now'. The first is a grinding punk-rock howl of hatred, while the second is a skanking groove fit for any party. But for music historians, The Monks are huge. These five GIs who stayed in West Germany after discharge are the only pre-1968 band to get a serious mention in histories of Krautrock Those metronomic beats must have had an influence on Neu! and Can - even though Can's Irmin Schmidt saw the Velvet Underground - and that influence seeps into punk rock, alt-rock, trance and industrial all the way through the 80s and 90s.
This might not be a great album, but it is a very important album.
on 28 July 2008
The Torquays were formed in 1964 in Germany by five American GIs based over there. They were really your typical bog standard Beat covers act, which most average bands of that period were.
But in 1966 they emerged, no longer in the army, with new monk style bald patches on their heads, all black clothing, a new name and a totally new and unique style all of their own; The Monks were born, with a live act and a sound quite simply in a league of its own.
Their only album, Black Monk Time, was released in 1966 on Polydor after being recorded in the dark nights of November 1965. To say this band and their one and only studio album release were unique, is literally an understatement, with the impact of it still not being fully appreciated by the general public.
This album release as with so many great cult records was a commercial flop, having mixed and patchy success in Germany, but not even registering a murmur in the US or Britain. But as with all great cult records; it will find a way of getting into your life somehow and thank the maker this has got into mine.
The album begins with Monk Time; highlights of this song include the marvellous vocals of Gary Burger and the lyrics which have to be read to fully appreciate what a stunning opener it is....
"Alright, my name's Gary.
Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time now!
You know we don't like the army.
Who cares what army?
Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong.
My brother died in Vietnam!
James Bond, who was he?
Stop it, stop it, I don't like it!
It's too loud for my ears.
Pussy Galore's comin' down and we like it.
We don't like the atomic bomb.
Stop it, stop it, I don't like it . . . stop it!
What's your meaning Larry?
Ahh, you think like I think!
You're a monk, I'm a monk, we're all monks!
Dave, Larry, Eddie, Roger, everybody, let's go!
It's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time now!"
This triumphant opener is followed up with the fabulously named Shut-Up, with its fantastic use of the organ and the almost football terrace rhythm it has to it. This is followed by Boys are Boys and Girls are Choice, which is one of those songs at just over a minute that is very much short and sweet.
Further down the track list is track 5, I Hate You, which is yet another showcase for the marvellous wailing vocals of Gary Burger, as well as demonstrating the sheer ahead of its time nature of The Monks musical output, I really do struggle to believe this song was recorded in 1965.
The same can be said for track 6; Oh, How To Do Now sounds so far beyond the pale and quite clearly influential to later artists, that when it comes to groundbreaking, I'm surprised anyone even bothers mention Revolver anymore as 1966's finest. You might think that I am just saying that for effect, but seriously, this album is a real surprise.
In subsequent years, this album has been reissued with some extra gems which oddly did not make the final cut; these include the brilliant Cuckoo, Love Can Tame The Wild and Monk Chant......marvellous.
Black Monk Time is an album filled with rhythm, angst and an anger, yet is all wrapped up in a quirky, raw, but catchy package which is rather appealing on the ears. This is punk music in its earliest form, but punk music with an electronic banjo, an organ and a beyond eccentric sound which makes you warm to this band and their music instantly.
An absolutely quality piece of work and an eye opener to anyone who believes that The Beatles' Revolver album was the only landmark album to come out of 1966. A Must
on 17 January 2003
I have hardly had this off my CD player in the week since it arrived. Black Monk Time must be the greatest hick surf punk record ever. The lyrics are bizarre schoolboy rants delivered in yelping fashion by Gary Burger, whilst the sound veers from surf to country to back again. Jonathan Richman, They Might Be Giants and The Fall are just three later acts who must have heard this record at some time or other, though I would say that The Monks influence goes a lot further. Spot the banjo (an underused instrument in rock 'n roll), the feedback.... 'I Hate You' must be the first true punk track. Only the organ sounds dated, but then I personally love that sound. Awesome.
on 1 June 2013
Vintage prototype skuzz-pop that would late give rise to such sonic gems as early Stooges The Fugs, Neu The Fall ( who pay homage with an excellent Monks cover on Extricate) and countless others. Propelled by claggy guitars, screeching organ andmotorik drums...this is a pop album of primeval excellence and importantly it is rude as it is and vital. So far ahead of it's times and captured by Doctors with a wry prognosis. Find of the year. In fact if something this good and impolite was released by a new group now, the star count would be the same.