So, I got this Easter Monkeys reissue late last year, because I’d reviewed a Tin Huey retrospective from the same label, and I’ve got to say, it was pretty excellent. The only contact I’d had with Easter Monkeys up to that point, surprisingly, was that “Underpants” cover on the Cobra Verde covers album (which I liked, and which I thought sounded the most Cobra Verde-ish of all those covers, and that maybe proves how well they fit into the Cleveland post-punk vein). But that’s all been remedied now, and I’ve seen the light and like this better than the Tin Huey, better even than the Rocket from the Tombs reissue a few years ago…but not quite as well as late 1970s Pere Ubu.
Easter Monkeys, part of Cleveland’s thriving early 1980s post-punk scene, were short-lived and poorly documented. The band formed in 1981 around the core of Jim Jones, ex- of Electric Eels (and later a member of reformed Pere Ubu) and singer/saxophonist Chris Yarmock. A ferocious rhythm section drove the band, with bassist Chris Ditteaux’s clanking and grinding through a miasma of no-wave disgruntlement and drummer Pat Hudson bashing out hard, repetitive rhythms, head down, arms flailing. To that, guitarist Jones sometimes added a shimmering, mesmeric kind of precision, a wavery tone built of whammy bar, distortion and chords clutched way up on the neck that sounds almost like R.E.M. or True West. (Try “Heaven 357” to hear it best.) And Yarmock contributed the necessary element of madness, raving about Catholicism, drugs, newspaper and horror movies in a claustrophobe’s monotone, pulling at his hair and letting loose with de-tuned saxophone blares. They were also a band not afraid to go long. Their masterful “Nailed to the Cross” runs over eight minutes, taut as a bowstring the whole time.
So which do you bleed, water or wine?
My internet connection is so slow today that I can’t even load this…hope it’s really the Easter Monkeys and not some sort of Catholic propaganda.