Singer/songwriter Chris Bailey still can't escape the outpouring awe everyone has for the first three Saints LPs (two punk stunners, and the best Stax R&B-punk LP ever), from when he teamed with the also-awesome Ed Kuepper and the band was Australia's Sex Pistols/Ramones. He may even be alluding to his distaste for ceaseless historical curiosity on Everybody Knows the Monkey's opener, "What Do You Want." Whatever, the tremendously talented Bailey has made a string of superb LPs since, only two of which, 1989's Prodigal Son and 1990's solo Demons, fell flat to all but devotees. And what a creative, great career it has been! From the flawless strings'n'horns majesty of his twin post-Kuepper Saints masterpieces, 1984's A Little Madness to Be Free and 1986's All Fools Day, to the languidly lush folk-rock of early-'90s solo LPs Savage Entertainment and 54 Days at Sea, Bailey has never lacked for inspired backing tracks and tunes for his beefy, still marvelous, post-blues snarl/bellow. His pipes still scream rock & roll. And now, having decided on 1996's Howling to assemble a third Saints and try basic rock & roll again, Bailey still has it in spades in his forties. Just as Howling reminded of the schizophrenic, paranoid 1982 killer Casablanca (aka Out in the Jungle...), this more primal, Stones/Easybeats/Wilson Pickett rawk'n'soul, dirty-bar-band sound hearkens back too, only even further, to 1980's The Monkey Puzzle (the title suggests the new Monkey may be a sequel of sorts). Everybody's tracks take a while to register, but they mostly succeed thanks to Bailey's unmitigated fire and still-pronounced hooks/arrangements. He's always been a first-rate lyricist, flitting from smug but stinging, cerebral cynicism to wide-open, vulnerable, meet-your-maker philosophizing. But it's that one-of-a-kind, hunkering, huge voice and garage background that dominate his LPs. Even on the lesser songs here, his uncommon talent still rises. And on the gems like "Everything Turns Sour," "Playboy," and "S+M+M's," Bailey assumes the mantle of still-living treasure. Follow him where'e'r he goes.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid