There are relatively few bands who have successfully maintained the atmosphere of quiet interest that surrounds the delightfully named 3 daft monkeys while still remaining an underground prospect. 3 daft monkeys have, however, followed the example of The Levellers, relentlessly touring and taking their unique sounds to a wide and enthusiastic audience around the country and following a successful blast around the festival circuit, their album ‘the antiquated and the arcane’ has been incredibly well received in many different areas of the press.
The answer to the question of the band’s appeal is immediately apparent in the beautifully lyrical title track which opens the album amidst a swirl of folk orientated but unmistakably contemporary-sounding music coupled with attractive vocal harmonies and a strangely punky feel recalling the vital energy of early Levellers recordings coupled with the more esoteric ramblings of bands such as Divokej Bill. It’s a beguiling mix that will appeal to anyone attracted to energetic and interesting music while the band’s unyielding passion is an absolute joy to behold as it leaps out of the speakers on every track. ‘Under one sun’ is equally admirable mixing up elements of contemporary rock (such as Bowie, the Manics and Linoleum), Cat Stevens and traditional folk instrumentation to form a memorable, gloriously unique soundtrack to the dark months of the winter bringing, as it does, the sun back into your life while the weather outside continues to cause shivers. It seems that there isn’t a musical element that 3 daft monkeys won’t touch on in their musical quest as elements of Ennio Morricone drift through the whistled bridge section of the song, but the whole is appreciably coherent and nothing sounds out of place or shoe-horned in for the sake of it. With its bouncy violin, ‘just a ride’ suggests what may have happened if the levellers had been asked to soundtrack Jeeves and Wooster (don’t ask, just listen!) in the style of ‘wide world’ while the harmonies are once again beautifully performed and rendered within a production job that allows the band to shine brightly.
‘Doors of perception’ is a more traditionally arranged song that sits comfortably between straight-up folk and the pastoral progressive sounds of (very) early genesis. It’s a great track that showcases the band’s roots nicely whilst still nodding towards the more energetic sounds found elsewhere. ‘Days of the dance’ is a longer track that tells a gloriously whimsical story set to a bouncy melody guaranteed to set your foot-a-tapping, although not nearly so much as the lyrically excellent ‘perfect stranger’ which recalls the Levellers’ ‘fifteen years’ in terms of subject matter and energy. ‘Time to evolve’ slows the pace once more for a beautiful, reflective piece which once again places the excellently written lyrics at the forefront before the Moorish ‘casualties of tour’ rears its exotic head (complete with a hint of ‘row, row, row your boat’ with the “life is but a dream” refrain) with its insistent melody and unusual progressions.
The amusingly titled ‘civilised debauchery’ kicks off the final third of the album with some glorious violin work and fast moving guitar for a track which undoubtedly fills the dance floor in the live environment. ‘She said’ has a throbbing bass line and a theatrical bent that builds to a shimmering crescendo in the mid-section whilst warning that you must be “careful what you wish for!” That ‘love (sic) fool’ should turn out to sound like Phil Collins playing reggae, after so much innovation, probably shouldn’t be a surprise and yet it still baffles on the first listen even while it sounds great. ‘Love life’ returns to more traditional fare with a lush acoustic sound and optimistic outlook. The final track, ‘masquerade parade’ rounds out the album in fine style – laden with energy and melody and simply great fun – a sentiment that could describe the album as a whole.
One of the greatest tributes that can be paid to any band is that they produce their music, not for commercial concerns, but for the love of what they do. 3 daft monkeys have successfully taken all the elements of the music they have enjoyed over the years and melded it together to create an album that simply brims with life, humour and inspiration. That this band have become a live favourite is of absolutely no surprise whatsoever – if they put even a tenth of the energy displayed here into their live performances they must be a searing live act indeed. This is a glorious, life-affirming, unique statement from a very special act indeed. Miss them at your peril.