Tim Mungenast - "Birth Of Monsters" (Green River Productions 1999, CD)
Tim Mungenast - "The Un-Stableboy" (Goat River Productions 2002, Goat River 002)
From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
From quirky guitar-based pop songs to psychedelic folk and rock, Tim Mungenast plays with familiar styles, but still manages to be an original. Hailing from the Boston area, Mungenast is part of the thriving music and avant-garde scene there, contributing to it with his own unique style. And while that style is often off-kilter, Mungenastís brand of psychedelia is not the tripped out, improvisational variety often reviewed here. Tim is first and foremost a songwriter, but donít be fooled by that moniker. Mungenast turns the idea of the traditional songwriter on its head, not the least by the wonderful contradictions in his music. Birth of Monsters has, perhaps, the darker title of his two albums, yet its style is one of more whimsy and fun than the more personal and reflective songs found on the "play on words" titled album The Un-stable Boy. Yet with all itís oddball lyrics and twisted images, Birth of Monsters is more conventional in terms of musical style than The Unstable Boy, which delves into stranger, more psychedelic territory. Both albums, however, are characterized by Timís creative and fascinating guitar-work and deceptively complex arrangements.
On Birth of Monsters, Tim charts a path through a wonderfully surrealistic yet strangely familiar world, from the bizarre events portrayed in the rocker Confidence Man; to the Eastern psychedelic rock of Mahatmaís Wheel, on which Mungenast lays down some very cool sitar and guitar leads; to the amazing instrumental title track, which has some truly smoking guitar work by guest guitarist Mac Randall that has to be heard; to the ghost haunted balladry of Demons; to the Temple of the Unwell, where itís cool to be sick; to the wonderful musings of the guy in Alligators, who keeps the titular animals in his swimming pool (or in his head, heís not sure which, and doesnít care); to the crazy yearnings of the food that wants to be eaten in Spam, just to name a few of the most enjoyable moments on the album. With each step of the way, the songs grow loopier, both lyrically and musically, till the final instrumental space/psych freak out, Masters of Cranberry. On Birth of Monsters, the world Mungenast sees may be somewhat disturbing, but that doesnít mean he canít laugh at it.
His latest, The Un-Stable Boy, which features artwork by his young daughter, is the more psychedelic excursion of the two albums, but also a more personal recording. It starts off with the lovely Eastern tinged Candles, and is followed by He Is Radio, a heartfelt electric tribute to the late Sean Patrick Murphy of WMFO Radio (who was one of Mungenastís earliest supporters). Later on in the album, Mungenast gives us the "Moonpool Version" of the same song, a much more acoustic and psychedelic version, with beautiful and emotional harmony vocals by Dreamchildís Cheryl Wanner. Along the way between, some of the treats that come the listenerís way are the hallucinogenic horror story of Invaders From Below, with more excellent lead guitar by Mac Randall; Libation to John, a spoken word ode to Mungenastís late father; and the weird space folk of Dead Tree Stroll, again with harmony vocals from Wanner. The album closes with the almost traditional sounding instrumental, Yarmouth Nocturne, a haunting duet between simply picked acoustic guitar and sighing slide guitar. A more low-key album than Birth of Monsters, The Un-stable Boy nonetheless offers up many subtle pleasures for the ears, the mind, and the soul.
For more information you can visit the Tim Mungenast web site at: http://www.timmungenast.com/.
Al visit Tim's site at Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/timmungenast
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald