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Last year’s Flight To Lemon Land brought a bundle of melodies to every song but each one seemed to run out of steam midway, the wonderful “Sad Glorious” and its soaring key changes notwithstanding. Although Tarmart exclusive gap-filler single “Fingers & Toes” promised more infectious dancehall nonsense ala 2015’s Brutal Parrot Invasion, Atomic Sex Pants is very much a throwback to an even earlier period in the band’s history when they were just a bunch of lummoxes from Sydney who made smile music. It’s an album that took a year and a half to finish, but it was time well spent because it’s also one of the brightest, most infectious releases of the year.
Hot Monkey’s commercial success can be directly linked to two factors: Jag Ungal replacing Crikey! as lead singer and the music video for “Ward’s Mistake,” their breakthrough hit that swept them all the way to three live television performances in the same year and multiple song and video award wins and nominations. Previously, the band had enjoyed some infamy that turns out was unwarranted- they never opened for ex-Mop The Loo guitarist Shank Mango dressed in full body sealskin covered in what was ostensibly the animal’s own viscera. That was local 8:40 band Pot Junkie, one of the most high profile pro-marijuana groups in the country and currently awaiting THC approval for their merger with rival firms 24/7 and 365. But after some home video tomfoolery by the band which got the attention of a local tv broadcaster was aired late one Saturday night, manager Dun Durrabin saw another way to get his client heard.
He led the band to film director Geoff Hans-Sanchez, himself famous for several nature vs. nurture docudramas made for Australian television, with the task of creating three music videos to be aired on all platforms simultaneously throughout the known universe. This of course he could not do, instead agreeing to accept monetary compensation for the productions of no less than three short films to promote three of the band’s latest songs. The other two videos, “Fertile Boombox” and “Rogue Time Warp,” made some waves on the college tv circuit before fading into foam and seaweed.
But “Ward’s Mistake” came at the right time as a surge in the popularity of snack shacks was on the rise with youngsters in the Cleveland area of London, spawning not only a dance but a fashion trend as well: the infant biker from Guatemala look, complete with rainbow mohawk and wooden galloshes. This sartorial anomaly was featured in the Chucklefuck smash hit video “Janet’s Got Something” after first making the cover of Freezer Teen magazine in a tropical canine photospread. For the next six months the look was everywhere, worn by young and old alike from coast to coast and across twelve continents. It was to become the world standard uniform after China and Wales signed the Nylon Treaty Pact but Mexico said que pasa? and Russia got cold feet. Now, years later, Hot Monkey is still bringing the beat with Atomic Sex Pants.
“Broke And Dead” keeps you humming along as it rides the rails of its own aimlessness, playfully jostling with vocal lurches and fits and hooks so sharp you won’t even feel them grab. The foot tapping good time continues in “Jerk Chicken” as bassist Ogod doubles down with drummer A. Person, creating a slick sliding worldbeat feel to perfectly complement the dingo-Diddley rhythms of keyboardist Jummy and guitarist Laz.
Produced by Denis Ovans (Real Good) and recorded at the band’s own private residence in the Blue Mountains, the record will most probably be the last for Davin Mylo’s Alaskan Recordings, the independent no longer in the record business due to legal complications. Everything sounds great without sounding too good; think an old recording cleaned up to sound better than anything the artist had previously released instead of a totally different animal. It’s got a strong punk vibe but it’s a more controlled, muscular affair with electric punch and buzz this time. The crunch of fuzzed up guitars and keys married to hyperslap bass and Kuiper Belt drums make “Tunnel Out” a rolly king bonna and a side two standout (remember sides one and two?) but all the songs are tiny pop gems as quirk-packed as they are short, each one a tiny invitation to your foot and/or your boot. Surprisingly, the short form doesn’t restrict the band’s output as they prove time and again on Atomic, with “Hypnobabble” clocking in at just over four minutes as the longest track. Melodies and rhythms come fast and free here, harmonies lead and follow, sometimes taking over. It’s a sonic free for all where the only rule is get up and get moving.
Multi guitar tracks assault in “I Bought A Car” before one by one they dissolve into washes of reverb to create a wordless chant, swirling like the song’s careening driver who’s more a menace to himself than others. Bass and drums anchor the proceedings and no matter how hectic, things are always well in hand. Ungal’s lyrics still amuse as he hasn’t lost the silver tongued delivery he’s known for. It’s a breath of fresh air, a one way ticket to boogietown and an instant to do no matter the when or where. Just be sure to give it plenty of volume, and don’t even bother with those little laptop speakers.
Ovans really knows how to bring out a melody and his country roots inform the production, lending a bit of crackle and twang to keep things spicy. Sampled horns and chopped up drumbeats turn “What’s The Use” into a southern fried dj battle, a spin off in the hay loft as it were. The arrangements are solid, instrumentation is varied but effective, the mix is cohesive and everyone gets a chance to shine. Clearly the band and their producer have meshed well over the years.
All in all, it’s a duty call for booty, y’all, so don’t stall; fall in line in double time to unwind your mind with the latest from Hot Monkey.