Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk (2009): Review

First off, the bloated press headlines that Monsters Of Folk are THE noughties “supergroup” are grossly exaggerated. Bright Eyes Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, along with My Morning Jackets’s Jim James have been reasonably successful, but even they would be happy to concede that they are far from worldwide superstar status. Given the amount of time M.Ward has spent on tour, it’s unlikely that he’s a household name even in his own household. “Supergroup” is an unnecessary tag that heightens expectations, and duly provides ammunition for the reviewers to shoot withering broadsides for the band “that need to stick to their day jobs”. “Monsters Of Folk” contains all the acts of musical appeasement that exists within any collaboration made by artists from four creative spheres. The quality control bar is undoubtedly lowered, resulting in an over long 15 tracks that contains as many reservations as it does credits. The low risk strategy makes for a comfortable listen without ever reaching the crucial highs occasionally experienced from their individual careers.

It’s difficult to be critical of an album that, had it been released by a new band, would have been an interesting proposition. Sadly too much bland, mid-tempo, tried and trusted Americana can dilute the highlights, and there indeed some sparkling moments. The opener for example (“Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”), cleverly samples rhythms from Numero Group’s “Good God!” collection, and with the aid of drifting synths and sympathetic Harp accompaniment, James, Oberst and Ward express their religious and theological misgivings with a heartfelt, almost resigned ache. “Temazcal” is Oberst at his most literate, supported by luscious harmonies his story pleads for attention,(“The love we made at gunpoint wasn’t love at all”) and the soft melody justifies his angst. Further enjoyment comes the succinct country of “The Right Place”, the innovative rhythms of “Ahead Of The Curve”, “Magic Marker” and “The Sandman, The Brakeman And Me”. The damp Eagles Of Death Metal sounding “Whole Lotta Losin”, and the slow, strung out “Slow Down Jo” should have been considered for the editorial snip.

Whilst “Monsters Of Folk” is a worthwhile achievement, and will sit comfortably with their previous individual performances, there’s a sense of undeniable anti-climax to it all.

6/10

1 Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)
2 Say Please
3 Whole Lotta Losin’
4 Temazcal
5 The Right Place
6 Baby Bloomer
7 Man Named Truth
8 Goodway
9 Ahead of the Curve
10 Slow Down Jo
11 Losin’ Yo Head
12 Magic Marker
13 Svetlana
14 Map of the World
15 The Sandman, The Brakeman and Me
16 His Master’s Voice

Dear God

Say Please

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