by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: July 22nd, 2014
Label: Mint Records
Monomyth are no longer Halifax’s best kept secret — they are well on their way to becoming Canada’s latest indie pop darlings. Are they deserving of such acclaim? If their debut ‘Saturnalia Regalia!‘ is any indication then the answer is most definitely “yes”.
Here’s a bit of a curveball — 54-40 comes to mind. Not because Monomyth particularly sounds like them — no, in that sense there is only a remote similarity. It is more about ethic. 54-40 could easily have been one of the most commercially successful bands in Canadian history. They certainly had all the ingredients — fine musicianship, great songwriting and a finely-tuned sense of relevance. But they always resisted the easy hook or the predictable chord progression. In short, they produced the music that they wanted, with little regard for how popular it may be. To their credit, Monomyth are following a similar path.
It’s easiest to explain their approach with a couple of examples. Arguably the best track on the album (although there is absolutely no filler, don’t get me wrong) is “Pac Ambition”, a lovely folk rock anthem. After a false finish the music starts back in again, with the attitude, “Hey, if you thought we were just gonna leave it there then you’ve got another thing coming.”. A spurt of distorted guitar then leads into a delightful bit of looping. Another example is “Medicine Man”, which starts off in a gallop of pounding drums and discordant guitars as if we were heading into a punk/new wave number, but the pace quickly settles down into another dream pop number. The wide-eyed, innocent Beatlesque chorus contrasts intriguingly with the verse, which is mournful, almost angst-driven. The frenetic pace of the opening returns briefly in the middle and then again in the closing to the song. It seems the guys want to throw you off every time you get yourself too comfortable.
You can tell from the odd bit of discordant guitar here and there that lying beneath the surface of this gentle pysch-folk is a snarling punkish outfit just dying to rip the place the apart. So, ‘Saturnalia Regalia‘ must be properly regarded as an exercise in disciplined restraint. But Monomyth are wise enough not to polish the stone too much — they leave in a lot of the rough edges. And it’s those rough edges that truly lend this album its charm.