Monophonics: ‘In Your Brain’
This review was written in October 2013, but every word still rings true. After that first time I heard Monophonics at Wanee in 2013, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of seeing this band eight more times, including their sets on Jam Cruise 2019, and have written about them extensively.
I grew up in the ’60s in Baltimore, blessed with three amazing soul radio stations (WWIN, WSID & WEBB). I was a Soul Man. Then came the psychedelic tsunami, and it seemed as if I were torn in opposite directions. But James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, George Clinton, Larry Graham and those fabulous long Temptations tunes made it clear that there was an intersection of soul and psychedelia.
If you had a time machine and could take a vinyl version of Monophonics’ major release In Your Brain (2012) back with you to the early ’70s, nobody would think twice (well, the Larry Graham sample in “All Together” might be a tip-off). This album fits so seamlessly into the deep R&B pocket of that time. When you listen, you will notice the various influences so lovingly honored.
Take a superb instrumental band mining the same rich territory as Lettuce and New Mastersounds, to name just two, and add a dynamic soul-belter in Kelly Finnigan, and you have a powerhouse band. They were the first band I saw at this year’s Wanee Festival (2013), and for my money I never heard anything that topped them.
The strength of their punch is evident on rockers such as “There’s a Riot Going On” and “Foolish Love,” a superb mix of clavinet, fuzzy psychedelic guitar, percussion and horns. The production on “Foolish Love” in particular reminds you of those great Temptations masterpieces such as “Run Away Child (Running Wild),” “Take a Stroll Through Your Mind,” and “Smiling Faces Sometimes.”
They cover “Bang Bang,” which certainly was a Sonny & Cher hit, but this version owes directly to the great 1968 cover by Terry Reid. “Mirage” could have come from an Isaac Hayes LP such as “To Be Continued.”
Although I am partial to the up-tempo tunes, I confess that the signature song for me is “Say You Love Me,” which screams early ’70s with the superb guitar. Finnigan is a true blues shouter, but on this song he delivers the soul big time; it’s impossible not to relate to the voice or the message – we’ve all been there.
To top it off, their live performance will knock you down and pick you right back up. Buy this disk, AND see them in concert. It’s cheaper than building your own time machine.