I must admit, I was expecting the worst when I first laid eyes on this CD. Between the unfortunate band name and the somehow Columbine-evoking album title, I anticipated another lousy emo or rap-rock record. But, as I'm sure you've already guessed, Mafia Cornfields obliterated all of my negative preconceptions. In fact, I can say with a good deal of enthusiasm that I loved this record and for those of you who've read my previous reviews for this publication, you know that means a lot. A little more about Munkey Juice before I try to describe the bands sound: Nelson and Robert Heise started the band in the backwoods of Ohio in 1995. In the time since, they've launched their own record label, released six full-length albums and two EPs, and at some point relocated themselves to the Twin Cities area. According to their bio, they've gone through drummers much like Spinal Tap did, but have managed not to let it slow them down. Now they're in the midst of finishing a double-album that will serve as the soundtrack to an indie film called Moscow due out this spring. All this, and nobodys ever heard of them. In fact, from what I could gather by browsing through their website, they've never played a show outside of the two states they've lived in. And what a shame, because unlike the hailed-as-saviors Strokes, Vines and White Stripes, these guys actually do rock. The first track, Hazy Lazy, comes hurtling out of the speakers at you, a hot blast of stripped down punk n roll reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana. But Munkey Juice doesn't let you get too comfortable. The next two tunes are far less abrasive numbers that bring to mind post-Pavement Stephen Malkmus and late-70s greats Richard Hell and the Voidoids and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, respectively. (The latter tracks chorus has the two brothers shouting time is running out over an amazingly hook-y keyboard part while the drums and guitars pleasurably pound away. Think Chinese Rocks or Born to Lose with a contemporary twist.) Keeping you on your toes, I Can't Close My Eyes surprises by sounding like it might have fit on London Calling, and Sanctity brings Modern Lovers-era Jonathan Richman back to life, employing the same un-ironic, nasally delivery that made J. R. so endearing way back when. But while many of these tunes nod toward the 70s, they by no means feel like straight copies or watered-down reproductions; this is modern rock n roll that truly understands it's roots, paying homage without simply re-treading old paths. I could go on and on about how many other traces of great singers and bands I heard while listening (everyone from David Byrne and Patti Smith to the Meat Puppets), but what matters is that this album never sounded pass, never got boring, and never failed to keep me moving. Even the whole mafia cornfields thing eventually started to make sense: the track of the same name tells the story of people who come from upstate New York, near Albany / they're coming to Ohio to dispose of some bad company / to the mafia cornfields of Shelby County / they take their time and dig the holes for the bloody bodies. And, after 1) the greatest use ever of accordion in rock music, 2) repeatedly and successfully blending what sounds like very cheap synth with straight-up, no frills drums-bass-and-guitar rock, and 3) consistently avoiding lyrical clichs, I can even forgive them for calling themselves Munkey Juice. But until I'm no longer the only person outside of two fairly non-descript fly-over states to have heard this, they're still on the hook. -Susan Visakowitz- leftoffthedial.com 1/24/05 Formed by the Heise brothers in 1995, Munkey Juice is a rock band for the hard of hearing. God himself once said this of the Juice, 'Rock never tasted so good'. Munkey Juice has been through their fair share of drummers in the spirit of Spinal Tap. They have released eight full length albums, and four EP's. This is their double album Moscow which features the talents of Minneapolis rock band Roscoe. Nelson Heise takes care of most the singing, strumming, and the dictating in the band. Robert 'Bubba' Heise does the slappin', tappin', and occasionally rappin'. Most importantly, Bubba is the looks and PR guy. To share your stories with MJ, just write an email and they will send their best regards. Info@munkeyjuice.net.
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