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Monkey Island/The Dublo – Defunctus Est/Baby Don’t Blues EP

L-13 Recordings

A split 10″ EP (and/or mini-album, perhaps – but anyway, its hand-stamped sleeve covers up a hefty chunk of vinyl, and the Gestetner-printed notes add an extra frisson of retro-cool to the packaging) from two of the ever-prolific Pete Bennett‘s bands is one of those things which only comes along once in a while. Sure, there are downloads (offered to buyers of this disc too, as it happens, bonus tracks included), there are similarly Latin-titled [post=monkey-island-luxe-redux text=”CDs”] and of course [post=membranes-wolfhounds-monkey-island-5-november text=”live”] shows, where both bands offer up blistering experiences of very different sorts. But this is a good old-fashioned analogue record, and vinyl-fetishism aside, thanks to Ed Deegan‘s skilled mastering it also sounds superb.

Monkey Island may kick the jams out of the post-punk yard and down the street with skronk and riffing grunge aplenty, but in the spaces between the noise – and there are lots of twists and turns to their music – the clarity of the recording shines. The lyrical content is sharp, bitter and defiantly radical, celebrating (well, sort of) Hackney landmarks, lambasting warmongers and torturers (“I’m the waterboard champion of Guantanamo Bay”) and setting out their republican (that’s as in anti-monarchist, obviously… the idea that Monkey Island might share anything politically in common with Rick Santorum is faintly ludicrous) credentials with a harshly acerbic sense of purpose, especially on the catchily instrumental “Song for A new Republic.” But in case this gives the impression that there’s a whole lot of Fall-worship going on, there’s some post-garage rocking on “Flagged Ragged” too, swirling echoes and delay winding round an anthemic slice of psych.

On the flipside, The Dublo share a similar impassioned energy, but here the music is as gritty as the blues gets. Bennett shares the vocals with contra-bassist Rowan Lambourne-Gibbs, and her warmly-emotive voice was born to sing these songs. Honed on the stage over the years, the three tracks wind and groove like they were cut in the back of a crossroads roadhouse next to the moonshine still on a dark and stormy night. “One Way Blues”  and “Yer Zero Blues” are hip-shaking stompers, but the mood really smoulders on “Baby Don’t Blues,” Jeremy’s Ison‘s haunting blues harp counterpointing Rowan’s ageless mourning for her lover’s lack of affection as the drums brush the melancholy away.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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