Review: The Monks – Bad Habits

The Strawbs are one of those bands which I call “disinherited”. They were very much a product of their time and unlike the big ones – Black Sabbath, Queen, Fleetwood Mac (and so on) – have not been passed on to the next generation of music listeners by their parents. Their albums wait in thrift stores untouched, with the average person unaware of the incredible musicianship hidden in each.

It is their little splinter group – The Monks – which will have centre stage here. Formed by the percussion section of The Strawbs, Bad Habits was meant to be a parody album of the popular (remember, it was not a counterculture movement, it was just a culture) Punk genre.

It is forty odd minutes of a band who know damn well how to play their instruments flipping one greasy middle finger after the other at bands who could not.

It is also bloody marvellous.

The thing you have to remind yourself when listening to this album is that it’s a parody album. It does not take itself seriously at any point. How could it? The songs include titles such as “Nice Legs, Shame About Her Face”, “Johnny B Rotten” and my personal favourite “Dear Jerry, Don’t Try To Kill Me With Your Love, Norman”.

It would be a failure on my part to dedicate a paragraph to certain songs which stood out for me. They all do. This is one of those records which works so well when you are sitting with your friends, sharing rude jokes and beer. It should be a staple on anyone’s party playlist, not least of which because each and every track carries with it a kind of malevolent energy which penetrates your bones. There are not many records out there like this, where track after track stands as testimony to the intelligence of its performers, but this is it. It is a sly, witty and bizarrely subtle affront to what was a snarling and rebellious youth culture during the time when it was made. It is tobacco smoke brought to life as a cheap hairdresser. It is a wonderful combination of genre meeting self-awareness without falling into a yawning chasm of smug.

See, though it is certainly not the greatest punk album of all time, it certainly is in my opinion of the greatest. I do not want to enrage those who would take me to task about what it meant to be punk and honestly I understand your point. Calling this a great punk album is a lot like calling Galaxy Quest the best Star Trek movie – the two hew so close to one another that you have to ask yourself: does it really matter?

No. No it does not. When you are slamming shameful amounts of white spirits while “Out of Work Musician” is playing in the background you won’t really care.

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