Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Mon Frere-Real Vampires EP

August 1, 2007

mon-frere-front

Band Name: Mon Frere

Album Name: Real Vampires EP

Best Element: Ridiculously inventive songwriting

Genre: Dirty, jazzy, heavy indie-rock.

Website: www.monfrere.net

Label Name: Cake Records (www.cakerecords.com)

Band E-mail: monfreremusic@yahoo.com

Mon Frere hits you in the face. You lose one man. You get to start over at the beginning of the level, and fight off the death ninjas, Radiohead-ish guitar squalls, and Nouela Johnston’s anguished vocals. You don’t stand much of a chance.

Nope, Mon Frere has just wiped the floors with you. Real Vampires is impeccably produced, immaculately written, ridiculously inventive, and downright rocking. Not bad for a debut EP of a band that has been together around a year.

Even so, the band sounds like it’s been together for years, as their chemistry produces pin-point timing, deceptively complex songwriting, and a dark, powerful sound that sounds like an angry jazz band beating Radiohead to death with its own instruments on a dance floor. The jazzy sound is best showcased in the tiptoe/stomp/tiptoe feel of “Up Circle”, which features seriously cymbal-heavy jazz drumming and a lounge-like effect on the keyboards. Pair that with the tom-heavy, shrieking-vocals, adrenaline-fueled, all-out rock attack that is “R.V.G.D.S (Fighting Mad)”, and you’ve got a band that knows its limitations.

The underlying connecting pieces of Mon Frere’s sound are the unquestionably good vocals of Nouela Johnston and the apocalyptic guitar sludge that permeates every song on the album. Johnston’s vocals are beyond good- the range is fantastic, the tone is spot-on, and the lines are catchy beyond belief (see the slow-burning “Orcs Don’t Know It” for proof). She’s got an outstanding general ear for pop, as her piano lines also capture that same charm that makes her vocal lines unforgettable (see the outro of “Orcs Don’t Know It”).

The heavy guitars are done exactly right- never crushing the life out of the sound, but turning it into something much more fist-raising, rock-bearing, and ear-stunning. Whether muting maliciously (“Real Ultimate Power”), pummeling the ear (“R.V.G.D.S.”), or driving the song (“Real Ultimate Power”, again), there’s always something that will make you sit up and take notice in the guitar lines.

There’s something for the listener of any genre here, whether “Somebody Told Me” is as heavy as you get, Chevelle rocks your mind, “Paranoid Android” is the apex of your musical world, or you hate bands that can be compared to other bands. There is something totally alien and completely familiar in Mon Frere- I automatically love it because I feel instantly acquainted with it, and yet I’m always finding something new and exciting within it. This EP is done in under 15 minutes- give me a full-length before I spin my EP to death, please. There’s just nothing better in the independent rock world right now than the insanity that is Mon Frere.

-Stephen Carradini

Independentclauses@hotmail.com

Mon Frere-Blood, Sweat, and Swords

May 1, 2006

Band Name: Mon Frere

Album Name: Blood, Sweat, and Swords
Best Element: Hooky danceability
Genre: Dance-rock
Website: www.monfrere.net
Label Name: Cake Records www.cakerecords.com

Band E-mail: dave@cakerecords.com

Mon Frere is good. Just how good? Let’s take a look at standout track “You Don’t Mind” and see. The track starts off with a cascading, intertwined guitar and synth riff. Once that 9-second intro is done, Mon Frere unleashes the catchiest guitar riff this side of the white stri“Seven Nation Army” and Nouela Johnston’s passionate, yet contained vocals. Her tunefulness tames her bite in the verses- but not so in the chorus, as the pipes are thrown wide open and the soaring, searing vocals attack throughout the rest of the song. The guitars and keys reprise their intro for the chorus, reminding you of just how good that riff was, before launching back into the verses, anchored by solid drum beats and augmented by cheerful handclaps, ironically placed in this sludgy, punchy, dark environment. A ripping solo section comes next- and it’s fist-pumpingly cool.

Yes, the members of Monn Frere have grown into their self-proclaimed motto of “We’re dirty, we’re pop, and we just can’t stop!” In their first EP Real Vampires, the members of Mon Frere were extremely polar, delivering manic dance-rock freak-outs right up against jazzy semi-ballads. While I do miss the panic and vitriol of songs like “R.V.D.G.S.F (Fighting Mad)”, the songs on Blood, Sweat, and Swords form a much more cohesive unit, and cultivate a sound that Mon Frere can call their own.

The three-piece that is Mon Frere has a pretty distinct sound- huge distorted guitars, booty-shaking drums, and quirky keyboards that alternately turn the band into a dance-rock powerhouse (“Bigshot”) and a hook-laden power-pop outfit (“Y.M.M.W.D.S.B.”). But they even blur the polarity of those genres, as they often make poppy dance tunes (“Drain”), and dancy pop tunes (“Clever Boi”). That sounds like splitting hairs, but when you listen to the tracks, you’ll hear the difference- it’s all in how the drums lead. Despite the subtle differences between tracks, all these songs pound with an almost otherworldly passion- as if Nouela Johnston and co. are delivering the gospel according to Mon Frere.

As you would expect with any near-religious revelation, there aren’t very many tracks that drag, although there are some. As mentioned earlier, there’s no really fast, heavy, keynote track here other than “You Don’t Mind”, and that definitely sticks out when you’re listening to songs like “Bullition” and “Harsh Winds”- tracks that aren’t bad, but just not as good as you want Mon Frere to be. The setup of “Bullition” prepares the listener for an explosion of a track, but the build-up leads nowhere, unfortunately. “Harsh Winds” follows in the jazzy footsteps of “Orcs Don’t Know It” from Real Vampires, but “Harsh Winds” isn’t as sultry or pulsating as the original track.

But these are minor disagreements with an otherwise brilliant album. When looking at this album as a whole, it’s hard to deny that Blood, Sweat, and Swords is one face-meltingly good album. If you’re a fan of the current dance-rock trend, you’ll definitely want to add this to your ‘buy now’ list- if you’re a fan of good pop music, you’ll want to do the same. Mon Frere has jumped up a couple spots on my ‘bands that will be big soon’ list with this release.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

Recent Posts

Categories

Independent Clauses Monthly E-mail

Get updates and information about IC, plus opportunities for bands.
Band name? PR company? Business?
* = required field

Archives