The Monkeywrench

Clean as a Broke-Dick Dog

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Less a blues revival effort and more a Seattle supergroup of the neo-garage scene getting together for some good noise (with some Australian help thanks to Martin Bland, who does a great job keeping the drumming brisk and energetic), the Monkeywrench on their first album kick out the jams rough and ready. Conrad Uno's production unsurprisingly isn't too fussy at all, while the harmonica and mid-speed (as opposed to lazy) tempo of nearly everything adds to the charm of it all. Mark Arm's wounded garage howl isn't trying to really be anything but itself (as opposed to, say, Muddy Waters), and for every straight-up bluesy wail and stomp ("Angelhead," "Doubled Over Again," "Bottle Up & Go"), there's something else again. "Cold Cold World," with a droning organ part from Arm offsetting the quick, crisp clip of the rest of the band, and the stop-start Mudhoney-in-all-but-name "Great Down Here" are among the exceptions to the seeming rule. Three covers crop up, with a tip of the hat to Buffy Sainte-Marie via the Sonics thanks to a slightly shambolic rumble through "Codine." A fairly calm version of Mose Allison's "Stop This World" and, amusingly enough, a frenetic screw-you take on Redd Kross' "Notes and Chords Mean Nothing to Me" also crop up among all the originals. The inevitable Blues Brothers comparisons (the mock Blue Note cover photo has the band in suits and shades; no porkpie hats, though) don't stick too much, thanks in part because it's a case of sharp performers keeping things loose and not making a big deal of things. Indeed, it looks like more work went into the layout of the album rather than into any deep theorizing of what's going on, which is to the band's credit and the cover artwork's benefit.

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