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David Thomas & Two Pale Boys
18 MONKEYS ON A DEAD MANíS CHEST
(Smog Veil/Hearthan)

Thatís a lot of monkeys, and it sounds as though all of them dashed into the studio when cosmic warbler Thomas stepped out for cigarette. Then they started stomping on phase shifters and letting those stomp boxesí whooshing tones come through wide-open amplifiers, and flogging guitars until the strings sang with the metallic hiss of a shrapnel shower. They blew trumpets, too, through amps and microphones that made their tones raggedy with distortion. And when Thomas came back in, they got the better of him, making him whoop and roar ó under their merciless flailing ó through songs like "Numbers Man," until his melodies became tilt-a-whirl rides. Monkeys, if given a chance, will do that kind of thing. But sometimes they get distracted, and it was in those moments that Thomas must have stepped to the microphone to croon elegiac tunes such as the sad, lovely "Little Sister," which is part confession and part science-fiction film soundtrack, with its Theremin-like squeals.

Unless all this stuff about monkeys is pure raving, and it actually was done by Thomas and his band under absolutely no duress. After all, this album is full of the arty punk spirit that made hair stand up on the heads of musically well-informed humans in the late 1970s, when punk was more expressionistic and less codified, and bands including Thomasís own former vehicle, Pere Ubu, felt free to drive their sonics any-damn-where they pleased. Hell, wouldnít monkeys have insisted on drums? They like the beat as much as they like Chiquitas. Either way, this third disc by Thomas and compatriots Keith Moline and Andy Diagram is odd, alienating, alienated, and provocative enough to demand listening. Inventive, too, even if no instruments were touched by human hands.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: November 26 - December 2, 2004
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