Monitor

Monitor

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The influential postpunk group Monitor only released one full album, but that one is remarkable and was influential in its day. While most of their comtemporaries were fixated on guitar noise, Monitor started with keyboard sounds that have been compared to carnival music or mechanical toys, then added layers of other instruments and vocals. The group was unusual for their sophistication, and used African and Eastern European sounding rhythms and minor key melodies to create a sound unlike anyone else. The track "We Get Messages" achieved some airplay despite the limited availability of the record, and it still stands out as a lost masterpiece. A mechanical-sounding synthesizer riff pulsates insistently over a muted drumbeat while a dissonant and oddly paced guitar line creates a second melody. Over this rhythmically odd but compelling soundscape are insistent vocals that vary between call-and-response, spoken words, and chanted choruses. Though this track and several others still hold up very well, the Monitor album is probably best known for a guest appearance. The brief blast of chaotic sound halfway through side two was the first recording by the Meat Puppets. The track is called "Hair" and is occasionally alleged to have some relation to the rock opera of the same name. Since not a single of the shouted and screamed vocals on the track is intelligible, it could be the main theme from Hair, or for that matter it could be the national anthem. Why it is on this album is anyone's guess, though it is worth noting that Monitor's Laurie O'Connell produced the first two Meat Puppets albums. Listening to the whole Monitor album, it seems incredible that the Pups went on to fame and fortune while the more interesting and enjoyable Monitor became a footnote in rock history.

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