Coming out of Shanghai with such talent when talent isn’t even a punk rock point of sale, is alone a daring feat. But Round Eye pull it off with the best of them. And knowing your punk won’t matter here, unless you like the kind that is well blended with other genres from reggae to jazz and dub step, so much that it breaks too far beyond the punk parameters. Monstervision is a hodge-podge of tracks placed between comedian DJ parts to present its picture of music by this eastern but worldly band’s latest release. They’ve released several acclaimed videos, including the first punk rock video ever filmed in Pyongyang North Korea.
This is an album with so much to be said about that it’s not easy to describe because it has a lot of parts. But once you’re following it’s hard to stop as it gets better with every listen, and each number brings out more and more of their ability to bring out much more than the punk fans to entertain. There is so much more but they don’t dog punk rock on the process. There are a lot of bands like this and they never disappoint me. They’re able to blend ska and 50s with everything from surf music to jazz and new wave without dismissing their punk mind set. This is an album that gets all of that and more.
They got former Daily Show comedian John Bloom to narrate the segments of Monstervision between the songs, some of which contain more than one title before he narrates again. This just plays out like a program to get the music across. It’s all done with world class appeal for a band that had to go underground in China, because of some of their art content being lewd. So, that is very surprising when you hear what an accessible album this is. Perhaps they don’t mean to be so hardcore in either sense they play in, but it all comes out in the wash. And a killer album is the result no matter how you slice it.
Songs like “Pink House” are worth anyone’s time, in this day and age, to see where all of their influences come together, ranging from the 50s to the now. This is one of the places you find yourself in the spirit of it all, as you go through all their points of anti-establishment in the lyrics but they’re well covered by positive vibes. This isn’t intentionally deceiving, it’s just excellent mixing of everything from the subject matter to the moods it embodies. If you come away with any favorite tracks, this will likely contend for one. This one cut goes all over the map and ends with a spooky heartbeat.
With a lot of ways to get your fun, the horns cook hard on “Nest” even though the lyrics are explicit, you can still appreciate how they write ‘em into the sophisticated musicianship that they almost break their own rules with. There is always going to be bitter subject matter to explore in punk rock, but Round Eye have a way of circumventing any problems by infusing nearly the vernacular of rock and other music genres into it without risking any damage to its reputation over the years. Just check out the variety of stuff visualized by these monster players, in “Sifter” which can be seen on video as mentioned, as well as “Billy” and the controversial but harmless “Commie Blues.” All complaining about the usual political and cultural shortcomings.