Space Monkeys

The Daddy of Them All

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It took almost ten years, but the people yearning for a "Madchester" revival finally came in from the cold, stopped giving money to the '60s-obsessed dadrock casualties, and started to rummage around for their baggy pants. Some even made records. Which helps explain why the Space Monkeys happened. A hip-pop, acid house, rock & roll band that promised much, but with their debut, The Daddy of Them All, didn't quite match their makers. At least they tried. The problem certainly couldn't have been their idols. From sampling Public Enemy to the Wu-Tang Clan to even DJ Shadow, the Space Monkeys fused it all with antsy acid house beats and Stone Roses-like rock & roll melodies. Take "Ready for the Rampage." As it seems to unashamedly steal from the Charlatans' "Weirdo" in a volley of breakbeats and caterwauling guitars, one senses that all the ingredients are there, yet the band just seems unable to take it to a much-needed new level. Take their lyrics. Few people will feel moved by such statements as, "I'm dead like a dodo but I dig it like a mole." Take the album's pacing: a constant stop-start shift. True, for every subpar, club-based collage ("Smile America"), there's a charmingly brainless ballad nearby (the Liam Gallagher-sneering "Sweetest Dream"). Luckily, these slow efforts are actually quite good. A lovely, climaxing "Let It Shine" thumps along, "We Are the Supercool" struts by with one of the best titles in years, and -- like Primal Scream's Screamadelica -- each one of them seems to be coded about drugs. The hitch is that even when the band peaks, they still sound like they're trying to match their acid house idols. They're more EMF, less Happy Mondays. But then again, if "Sugar Cane" would be the band's "Unbelievable," it's a start. An unexpected crossover hit, its cocaine-fueled spree tackles Grandmaster Flash, Blade Runner, and Hong Kong Phooey. It seems to summarize the album: The band may have slit their own wrists with too much random name-checking and hero-worship, but at least it was an entertaining mistake. As the band themselves would say, "My, my, what a way to go."

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