The Monks were originally five American squaddies stationed/ marooned in Germany in the mid- 60s. They dressed as monks, complete with hole-in-the-top hairdon’ts. They twanged fuzzed-up electric banjo as lead instrument; harangued their audience with lurching anti-war rants; invented an avant-garde, minimal proto- Krautrock, and wondered why girls on The Kinks support tour didn’t throw their panties onstage. The Monks were punker than punk, as pulsating as techno, and the magic element that’s missing from too many of these tribute tracks is the yard-wide grins and sense of joyous insanity that leapt out of everything The Monks ever touched.
Forty years on, it’s frankly easy to set up an electronic pulsebeat or make a sincere black noise. Robbed of context, original powder-keg ingredients (feedback!) now sound par for the course. The Monks came deconstruction-proof, and it’s a bit arse-clenching to hear equally iconoclastic acts such as the Silver Apples and Alan Vega stumble. Hats off to Monks mainman Gary Burger in astonishing form; not so whoever’s responsible for sending out a copy with ‘Disc Two’ being another Disc One, so no feedback on The Fall or Faust.