David Thomas & Two Pale Boys - "18 Monkeys On A Dead Man's Chest" (Smog Veil Records 2004, SV51CD)

From Aural Innovations #29 (October 2004)

18 Monkeys on a Dean Man's Chest is the group's fifth release and their third studio album. I don't much care for that title and the cover is pretty hideous. The band is David Thomas vocals, melodeon, musette (I'll assume everyone knows David was/is in Pere Ubu), Keith Moline guitars, violin and electronics... Keith refuses to play in rock or jazz bands. His approach to music derives from "a careful diet of high-art electronica and low-art Goth." He is currently playing with They Came From The Stars I Saw Them and has also worked with Infidel and Mesmerist. Andy Diagram plays trumpets, electronics. Andy, a member of James in the early 90's, has played in a number of influential groups, including Dislocation Dance, The Diagram Brothers and The Hankies. Currently he plays with the Two Pale Boys and his own group, Spaceheads. I have to admit I've never owned any Pere Ubu or David Thomas albums. I used to ask Scott Telles and Bob Bechtol from ST 37 to make me a tape but it never happened, but I always dug what I heard. I played a slew of shows with Bob Bechtol (Thanatopsis Throne, ST 37, Triplewide etc.) and I just now realized Bob was doin' David Thomas all these years, maybe that's why he never made me a tape.

OK so on to the review. NEW ORLEANS FUZZ: I'm gettin' a Gary Floyd, Elevators vibe. Cool Loud rock music that doesn't suck, quite a rarity but prolly my least favorite song on the CD because the rest is so damn strange. NUMBERS MAN: very alternative rock early Butthole Surfers soundin'... Space break, crazed sax. Reminds me of the early 80's Art Punk sound that was so prevalent in Austin. But I reckon David Thomas has been doin' this sorta thing for almost 30 years. LITTLE SISTER: more commercial sung vocals, no drums, theremin. My cat Stinky likes it. She runs around the room, so that's a good sign. HABEAS CORPUS: more theremin, slow creepy, again reminds me of Gary Floyd (was he doin' David Thomas too?) spoken word stuff. Great song. BRUNSWICK PARKING LOT: "looking through a veil of indigo", chord organ coolness, no drums, non-rock... very powerful vocals, "you knew me when I was thin", great lyrics. NEBRASKA ALCOHOL ABUSE: odd sorta industrial beat, this whole CD is definitely something much more than "alternative" rock... Wow this is like poetry or something, more like soundtrack music. "And the big truck shimmys in the rear view mirror". SAD EYED LOWLANDS: spacey weird, very nice. Cool trumpet, "somebody says stars are coming all undone because of you". GOLDEN SURF: "it's time to go" spoken word jazzy world beatish. PREPARE FOR THE END: sad trumpet intro "I want to live on Soda Mountain", uncategorizable music. I would like to see these guys live. This is a very strong album, much more than I was expecting.

For more information you can visit the Smog Veil Records web site at: http://www.smogveil.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Smog Veil; 550 W. Plumb Ln #B501; Reno, NV 89509.

Reviewed by Carlton Crutcher

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