by Richie Unterberger
One of the strangest stories in rock history, the Monks were formed in the early '60s by American G.I.s stationed in Germany. After their discharge, the group stayed on in Germany as the Torquays, a fairly standard beat band. After changing their name to the Monks in the mid-'60s, they also changed their music, attitude, and appearance radically. Gone were standard oldie covers, replaced by furious, minimalist original material that anticipated the blunt, harsh commentary of the punk era. Their insistent rhythms recalled martial beats and polkas as much as garage rock, and the weirdness quotient was heightened by electric banjo, berserk organ runs, and occasional bursts of feedback guitar. To prove that they meant business, the Monks shaved the top of their heads and ... Read More...
01. Monk Time02. We Do Wie Du03. Boys Are Boys04. Pretty Suzanne05. Higgle-Dy Piggle-Dy06. Hushie Pushie07. Love Came Tumblin' Down08. Oh, How to Do Now09. Space Age10. I Hate You11. There She Walks12. Boys Are Boys
Rawer than their primordial opus, Black Monk Time, Five Upstart Americans is a collection of demos by proto-punks the Monks (recorded when they were still known as the Torquays). While most demonstration recordings are, by nature, more primitive than the finished product, these sessions could be seen as even more representative of the Monks primal vision. Here their "over-beat" songs of love/hate, confusion, and frustration are stripped to their bare essentials, with minimal lyrics and overdubs. Taped in a single day in 1965, most of these performances remained unreleased for 34 years ("I Hate You" and "Oh, How to Do Now" were included as bonus tracks on Infinite Zero's reissue of Black Monk Time in 1997). Though essential listening for Monk converts, the uninitiated should bless themselves with Black Monk Time before proceeding further. Five Upstart Americans also includes their first 45 (as Five Torquays), which only hints at what was to come.