The Monkey Puzzle, the Saints' first full-length album after the departure of founding guitarist/songwriter Ed Kuepper, is quite different from the first three Saints LPs -- which were all different from each other anyway -- but holds up well to the test of time. Instead of the abrasive punk or Memphisy sound of earlier records, Monkey Puzzle's jangly rock hints at the direction bands like R.E.M. took mid-'80s college rock. Lead singer Chris Bailey's distinctive, resonant voice shines on the gorgeous "Let's Pretend," the very Byrdsy "Always," and the incendiary "Simple Love." The Australian version also includes the classic B-side, "In the Mirror," with its highly memorable bass intro and astounding hooks, and a wonderfully sloppy and loose cover of Larry Williams' "Dizzy Miss Lizzy." Elsewhere, the fare is more conventional rock, albeit with chiming guitar, great songs, and singing. Barrington Francis' jangly guitar, original drummer Ivor Hay, and bassist Janine Hall give the band an entirely new dimension. On its release, Monkey Puzzle shocked fans with its maturity; though it was made by 21-year-old punk, most other 21-year-old punks thought it was too much like regular rock -- a sin in 1981. Since it wasn't released in the U.S. or England, not many people heard it anyway. Ironically, a few years later, bands like Guadalcanal Diary and the Connells came to the forefront using a very similar approach. Of course, by then Bailey had moved into a whole new musical space. Highly recommended.
The Monkey Puzzle Review
by Geoff Ginsberg