Like many others, I was first introduced to the work of the Monkees through the timeless single “Daydream Believer”. My father, a fervent 60s fan, used to, and still occasionally does, put it on a lot back home and I have very fond memories of the song. So when I was waiting for my digital purchase of their newest showing “Good Times!” to download, I knew and expected nothing less than a good time incoming. And it is safe to say that I was not disappointed.
The album itself is as much contemporary as it is a throwback to the old days. With the likes Weezer’s River Cuomo, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard and ex-Oasis lead guitarist Noel Gallagher (and more) having penned tunes on this LP, the ground the Monkees have covered is explorative and colorful.
Influences of the above named new-generation songwriters (and more) are overt. But it is comfortingly admirable that the Monkees obviously have tried their best stuck onto the 60s bouncy and energetic vibe that made them famous in the first place. What sounds seemingly old, out of place in this age and era even, here still nonetheless sounds gold.
The almost cringingly catchy “She Makes Me Laugh” (penned by Cuomo), with its bouncy bassline, its almost hackneyed but nonetheless fun-to sing lyrics, its upbeat and guileless sing-along-friendly chorus, is a no-brainer choice as the album’s standout tune. The lyrics, as mentioned, are nothing grandeur or much of a story of course, but there’s nothing wrong about singing joyfully of one’s Valentine that “makes me laugh” and the fact that “I could hang out with her all day and night”, is there? It conjures up stock images of two red-faced junior high schoolers after their first date and, having seen that they’ve clicked well, wanting to take their relationship further. And when you consider the fact that no one in the current lineup of the Monkees is younger than the not-so-ripe age of 70, you can’t help but laugh.
“Me and Magdalena”, on the other hand, features a slightly different context as it speaks of two lovers driving away from the weariness and drudgery of the modern world. Its wonderfully harmonized two-part vocals, and expresses, with some restraint, that “I don’t know if I’ve ever loved any other”. You’ll soon find yourself swinging your hips uncontrollably to the simple yet effective trio partnership of the upright bass, of the acoustic piano, and the stroke of the simplistic drum brush.
There is a “Me and Magdalena (Version 2” which provides a noisier alternative to the peace and quiet of the original. But sadly the addition of the distorted guitar in this version and a drum beat ripped off Green Day simply lacerates the beautiful tranquility that is to be found in the original version. Why they decided to keep “Version 2” on the album is beyond me, as it sounds more like a demo than a proper song.
But nonetheless, you’ll be glad to hear that “Version 2” is merely an anomaly and the rest of the album does stand its own ground. “Terrifying”, contrary to its name, is nothing to be terrified of, as it merely speaks of the story of a shy boy being “terrified” when being electrically gazed in the eyes by the girl he fancies, to the extent where one “forgets my own name”. “I Know What I Know” is a sickly sweet ode to a lover miles away, which proclaims that “I know what I know, and what I know is I know nothing without you”. Props must be given to such a philosophical mindbender, and a tongue-twister too, of a lyrical line. “You Bring the Summer” depicts a couple heading to the beach with the singer bringing with him “chips and the dips and root beer.” Corny, I know, but it sounds fun and oddly alluring to clap along to.
Even with half a decade behind them, the Monkees are still very much alive and kicking, as summery, punchy, quirky and as good as ever. A perfect feel-good album to rejuvenate those struggling with finals and, for those fortunate few who do not, a punchy reminder of the pleasantry of the blue skies, breezes and sunshine of Trinity.