Monotonix’s debut, Body Language, is the sound of someone straight up spazzing the hell out; not in the Melt Banana speed-freak sort of vein, but rather one reminiscent of jittery junior high students who can’t keep themselves at their desks long enough to sit through roll call. If those children grew up and started a band, along the way indulging heavily in Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad and maybe the occasional AmRep album, they might sound a bit like Monotnix. It makes for a fairly distinctive style, though far from an unfamiliar one.
Formed in 2005, the Israeli trio hadn’t been honing their craft for too long prior to gaining the attention of Silver Jew Dave Berman during one of the born-again pilgrim’s tours through the holy land. And in getting the full Drag City hook-up in the form of Tim Green at the controls, the band’s debut EP is given the sort of muscular crunch and metallic glare that it deserves. At times proggy in its break neck structural switchbacks (“Body Language”), at others down right stadium sized in its riffage (“On the Road”), Body Language is at its best when it’s lean and mean, as on the blistering opener “Lowest Dive.” After a punishing single–riff intro, the song explodes into a twisted groove that neatly splits the difference between classic rock guitar jams and noise punk. Frontman Ami Shalev’s possessed wails occasionally recall Daniel Higgs’s trance-like incantations, but have far more in common with the odd-ball histrionics of Mike Patton.
Much has been made of Monotonix as a live band, and it’s easy to hear how their meaty, menacing noise rock riffs and scorched-earth vocals would translate into a memorable performance. To wit, the EP oozes with human energy and has an organic upfront urgency, with guitar and drums pushed to the front, but never competing for space with the vocals. And never too far beneath the songs’ obvious pig fuck-isms lurks that ultimately harmless, yet decidedly unhinged junior high spazz. Indeed, Shaley seizes the spotlight and is given plenty of space to careen around the record, flinging spitballs and pulling the fire alarm. As a vintage rock & roll nutter, he is entertaining, at least for a little while; he’s also probably quite the spectacle live – lighting things on fire, shoving things places they’re not suppose to go. But as is the case with any genuine spazz, at a certain point you want to shake your head and say calm down.