Shitake Monkey

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Don't be fooled by the veneer of trashy guitars and stoopid pop hooks that Shitake Monkey have constructed on their debut album. Beneath the surface goofiness (sample song titles: "Come On," "Turn It Up," "Here's a Song"), there's a real musical intelligence at work -- and even if that intelligence is sometimes sacrificed for the sake of a dumb joke or two, it's still there to be found beneath the trash-pop surface of almost every song. Notice, for example, how good the falsetto singing is on "Maybe Lady," and how beautifully constructed the hook is on the deceptively simple-sounding "Those Days." Also notice the excellent harmony singing on the funky "Come On," and the fact that "Mad Monkey" is much more complex than it sounds at first listen -- for one thing, it's a reggae song, which you won't notice unless you listen very carefully to its rhythmic structure. The numbers that fall flat -- notably "N'ere Pie Fire" (which sounds like a demo) and "Here's a Song" (which sounds like an in-joke) -- are mostly brief and easy enough to skip over. But just about everything else starts out sounding like a trifle and ends up sounding like something much more. That's pretty impressive for a first album.

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