So we have the first Monkees single in twenty-nine years, written by Rivers Cuomo of Weezer and produced by Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne. I just wrote this on Tumblr and it’s long enough that I thought it would work as a blog post on its own:
The lyrics are ridiculous, but in a good way that’s clearly meant to be ridiculous. A lot of the older Monkees fans seem to find them embarrassing, but I think they’re entirely positive.
The mix sounds a bit too trebly, but that’s likely to be an artefact of it being a low-bitrate stream rather than the track itself. I hope hearing it at a higher bitrate will bring out the harmonies more and allow the hi-hat to sit in the mix better.
On the plus side is… well, everything else. It’s catchy as hell, Micky and MIke are both in great voice (though I’d like Mike to be higher in the mix), it doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of current radio-friendly production which would date it within five years, but nor is it self-consciously retro. If I knew nothing about the track I’d have guessed it was from the mid-late 90s (it sounds like something that could be on the soundtrack of a Kevin Smith film) — unsurprisingly given the producer and writer, but could also have believed it was late-70s powerpop.
Having Mike so prominent in the backing vocals, and having Peter’s banjo get a little bit of time as the most audible lead instrument, also stops this sounding like a Micky solo record — it’s definitely a Monkees record, in a way that, say, “That Was Then, This Is Now” really wasn’t.
It sounds like Micky drumming, and like a single live drum take — some of the drumming sounds slightly off the beat, to my sense of rhythm, rather than the mechanistic, perfect timing you get on most records now. I like that, but I do wonder if that will limit its commercial potential (people never think they notice the drums, but they really do). I bet it’ll get playlisted on Radio 2, but doubt it’ll chart.
But yeah, this is the best Monkees single (as a single, not as a track — “Porpoise Song” for example is a great track but a lousy pop single) since “Daydream Believer”. Lightweight pop, but there’s nothing wrong with that — and I have every reason to believe that the album will have some much more substantial material on it as well.
My main concerns with the album were around the production — I didn’t want to have something like the Beach Boys’ reunion album, which sounded like a bunch of 70-year-old men trying to sound contemporary and failing (that’s not a bad album, mind you, but in another few years people will be saying “that’s *so* 2012! Did they all have hipster beards and vape on the cover?”). This isn’t like that. Adam Schlesinger clearly knows what people want the Monkees to sound like, and has given us that.
On the basis of this, and what we know about all the other tracks, this will be definitely the best Monkees album since Present, and probably since Pisces. A fitting way for them to go out…