Despite the immense talents of all involved, Monsters of Folk never really get anywhere.
Release Date: September 22, 2009
Record Label: Shangri-La Music
It’s easy to be cynical of supergroups– more often than not they’re expendable, self-indulgent and self-aware, releasing only half-baked material before they fade away and are forgotten about. Then every so often, there’s something that comes about like a spark– a sudden glow of hope that this could in fact be something special that’s being witnessed. Anyone with even a waft of knowledge about the long-discussed Monsters of Folk project likely was approaching the album with expectations that fell in line with the latter way of thinking– and out of those people, it’s likely that more than half of them are going to be disappointed.
Monsters of Folk is Jim James (or Yim Yames) of My Morning Jacket fame, M. Ward (of She & Him fame as of late), Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes), and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis. They gave hope by releasing a couple of very slick tunes in “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” and “Say Please,” and then followed up with an album that is, at the very best, underwhelming.
It would be easier if this were a flat out bad album, but it’s not– instead, it’s a jangly collection of songs that would be better suited as a record label sampler than a supposed supergroup. Even better, the song titles really could’ve been- “Conor Oberst song #1,” “M. Ward song #4,” “Jim James being weird song #14″ and so forth. There isn’t any true interplay between the artists, and for such a creative core of guys, it seems that there should be enough experimentation to last for longer than just the opening track. Also, with the album clocking in at nearly an hour, these faults quickly lessen the listening experience.
They do have their moments, as both the aforementioned “Dear God” and “Slow Down Jo” display what this band is capable of, and perhaps they’ll get there next time around. For now, however, you can only dream about what would’ve been and try to enjoy Monsters of Folk for what it is, a slightly above average side project.
Monsters of Folk - “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”