ALBUM REVIEW – The Sugar Monkey by The Sugar Monkey
The Sugar Monkey are not just an unusually named band but produce some off the wall folk/roots music. Their self-titled debut album came out way back in 2011 and as they are busy making the follow up, I will share my thoughts on what can only be described as a love it or hate it album.
With tongue firmly in cheek the album kicks off with ‘Country Song’ a banjo heavy American Bluegrass sounding track that kind of plays out like a love song. I say kind of because, The Sugar Monkey approach is not a traditional tribute to a loved one as one would normally expect but as a list of her faults, with them admitting ‘I’m so messed up that I couldn’t care’. Messed up on love or something else is up for you to decide as they quickly bridge into the second song.
Continuing into another short but sweet love song (this time for the sugary confectionery they so love), with the title track ‘Sugar Monkey’ before jumping back over the pond for a more English folk/rock song which happens to also be one of the standout tracks on the album, ‘Underground’. Quite what kind of “love” they are singing about never becomes clear but simple lyrics aren’t something the Sugar Monkey do. A clever and catchy song that will not only have you tapping along to it in no time but put a smile on anyone face who’s been in those hot, packed train tunnels below London and had someone catch their eye.
The tracks ‘Merlot’ and ‘Birdseed’ hop back to our American cousins for their Blues Music sound, continuing the quirky writing style of the band, before another one of the albums best songs kicks in, ‘Ain’t no Quitter’. A true American country track, we are told the story of an alcoholic father teaching his son how to carry on the tradition; The Sugar Monkey are truly at their best when they bring in the dark comedy other bands wouldn’t dare go near.
The band shows off their musical skills as well as just how many different genres influence them. From the bluesy ‘If’, to the folk/pop sounding ‘Life Is Too Short To…’ and the rocky ‘Ladies Like to Rock’; all are equally as good as each other, but all have their own unique identity.
‘Love Well’ is by far my favourite track on the album, mixing traditional English folk with the sound of the modern English folk movement coming out of London and the South East of England. On the outside the song tells a story of falling in love at first sight but dig a little deeper into the lyrics and the Sugar Monkey dark humour pours out in a genuinely creepy way.
‘Shit Happens’ immediately lightens the mood with its old school Bluegrass sound and its tale of, well, shit happening!
The Sugar Monkey round off the album with ‘Winter In The North of the World’. A ‘farewell, we will return’ song to the listener. While a more traditional folk sound, it’s not only another of the best tracks on the album, but a nice way in which to end it.
As I said at the beginning, the Sugar Monkey self-titled debut album is a love it or hate it album, which I am happy to say, I love, a lot. With a mix of everything from old school American country music to new wave English folk, the band refuse to settle for one genre or stick to a single ‘theme’, which in most cases would be the downfall of the album but with such a variety of sounds, clever and quirky lyrics as well as a very dark English humour the Sugar Monkey nail it. An outstanding album from an exciting new band. I very much look forward to the next one.
You can get hold of a copy here: Sugar Monkey