The Reegs

Return of the Sea Monkeys

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Collecting early singles, tribute contributions, and some otherwise unreleased tracks, Return of the Sea Monkeys is an enjoyable effort for anyone touched by the hand of Chameleons fandom. But to Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding's credit -- as well as that of Gary Lavery, the lead singer for the band along with Smithies -- their work is as enjoyable on their own as Mark Burgess' own solo efforts. To be sure, Lavery (at least at this point) simply isn't as strong and passionate a singer as the inimitable Burgess, but wisely Lavery isn't trying to compete, at least not completely. Instead, his slightly lighter voice finds its own balance, more so than Smithies, who admittedly on a number of the songs (check "This Savage Garden") sinks into the mix where he might normally stand out more. Perhaps more of a jarring change, given that John Lever went on to drum with Burgess on the Sun & the Moon and beyond, is the use of drum machines instead. It renders still fine songs like the driving "Chorus of the Lost" and the strong instrumental "Start to See" a bit less involving, where Lever could really have sent things over the top. But all one needs to do is hear the beautiful intertwining of Smithies and Fielding's instantly recognizable, rich guitar sound -- in full effect from the first song, a cover of the Kinks' "See My Friends" turned into a sweeping miniature epic -- to know that everything will be more than all right. One of the further joys of Return of the Sea Monkeys, though, is hearing how the two guitarists expand their range beyond the expected -- for instance, Fielding's jaunty banjo on the instrumental "Is There a Mother-in-Law in the Club?"