Could it be that going out on top has become a certifiable artistic trend?
Jawbox recently hung up their guitar straps citing such considerations, and
the papers have been filled with stories about Jerry Seinfeld turning down
a behemoth salary in favor of keeping his integrity.
Now we get word that the Bellingham, Wash.'s Mono Men --
the greatest garage rock band of the '90s -- have decided to call it a day,
only a few months after the release of their hardest hitting album, Have A Nice Day,
Motherfucker. The band played
their final gigs in Chicago in December.
"Things have to move on," said guitarist and founder Dave Crider on
Tuesday. "It basically was time. When we started, we started to play for
beer. We never intended to do any of the things we did. And we said, when
it stopped being fun, we would stop. It was time to quit rather than drag
it out. We were happy with where we were, and the new album is really,
Crider has already formed an as-yet-unnamed successor band with Mono Men
drummer Aaron Roeder. Additional musicians for the group have not yet been
shored up, and the new combo has yet to go in the studio or perform live.
Still, Crider said he hopes to have a tour and a release set to go before the
end of 1998.
"It's not to a point where I'm talking about it yet," the guitarist said.
"But I'm more excited about playing than I ever have been. I don't know
how much the new band is going to be a stretch from what we've done before
-- but it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun."
One fan looking forward to the future rather than mourning the past is
Frank Kozik, owner of Man's Ruin Records and designer of several Mono Men
concert posters. "As far as I'm concerned as a music fan, there's a
million Mono Men records
and they're great and they'll always be great," Kozik said. "Now
Dave says he's working on a different approach to music, so how cool is
Crider and Roeder formed the Mono Men with guitarist John Mortensen and
bassist Ledge Mortensen 10 years ago, at the same time Crider was founding
Estrus Records. During their decade-long run, the band developed a
reputation as one of America's premier garage outfits, releasing nine
albums and a host of fiery singles, most on Estrus. On records such as
Sin & Tonic, Live at Tom's Strip n' Bowl and their most
recent release, Have A Nice Day, Motherfucker, the Mono Men wed their
love of greasy rock-riffs to an appreciation not only for garage and
proto-punk but also early psychedelic music and R&B as well.
Kozik gives Crider, the Mono Men and Estrus the lion's share of the credit
for kick-starting the garage-rock scene that exploded during the '90s.
"They are a major player in revitalizing post-punk music for older fucks
who wanted to go out," Kozik said. "They gave extended life to formerly
punk venues and fans, and they upped the quality of indie releases in terms
of style and design. A lot of graphic artists like myself and Coop and
Art Chantry did early work for Estrus. Dave did a good job popularizing
of music and a whole aesthetic."
Now that the Mono Men have ended their run, the question that pops in the
minds of many fans is where the band found the fortitude to keep them from
packing it in sooner. A year ago this week, Estrus sustained a $300,000
loss when a warehouse full of mail-order stock and Mono Men equipment went
up in flames. Then John Mortensen left the band for the second time before the Mono Men
recorded Have A Nice Day, Motherfucker.
"They'd pretty much used up the trip," Kozik said. "Dave wants to try
different material with a different lineup. I don't see it as being
negative. Maybe the new material will be even more interesting 'cause it will
be different. If it's what they wanted to do and they'll keep doing
music, I can only say, 'Cool.' " [Tues., Jan. 13, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]