The Monks Time Has Come

From the same on-line magazine that last month wouldn't leave you alone about

the Memphis Goons, the best band nobody's ever heard of, comes news of another

long-lost release from a band you've never heard whose barely-released album is

some sort of rock & roll Holy Grail for folks inclined to look for those kinds

of things.

This time, the band in question is the self-proclaimed

"anti-Beatles," The Monks, and the album is Black Monk Time (Infinite

Zero, Feb. 11), a startling debut from one of the first wave of punk bands that

time forgot. Truly one of the strangest stories in rock, The Monks' tale is one

of anti-war sentiment, unfashionably harsh beats and guitar feedback in an era

when sugar-coated pop and folk were all the rage.

The Monks were a

four-piece formed in 1965 by some American GI's stationed in Germany who

started their career as a beat/skiffle band named the Torquays, but quickly

changed to the more cloistered Monks name and adopted a look and sound unlike

any of their contemporaries. As part of their unorthodox stage ensemble the

quartet shaved the tops of their heads and performed in monks' clothing.

assaulting audiences with a minimalist sound interspersed with the occasional

organ blast, electric banjo and squealing guitar feedback, while their crude

lyrics dripped with anti-Vietnam sentiment and nihilistic love tales.

Although somewhat quaint-sounding in the '90's, the album, which was never

released in the U.S., is, like the Goons' recently released "lost" debut, a

loud and sloppy snapshot of a separate reality from a familiar era. And, if

you're really inspired by songs like "I Hate You" and "Shut Up," look for

bassist Eddie Shaw's hard-to-find exhaustive biography of the group, Black

Monk Time, in which the writer and his wife tell the short (the band broke

up in 1967), bittersweet tale of the band that history forgot.