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Music Review: Easter Monkeys: Splendor Of Sorrow

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Easter Monkeys may be one of the most obscure bands I have ever reviewed, and also one of the finest. They came out of the fertile scene of Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1980s, and are yet to receive their proper due. With the release of Splendor Of Sorrow, Smog Veil Records hopes to rectify this slight.

It is strange how these music scenes work. London, San Francisco, New York, and Seattle have all been acknowledged as “hip“ centers. But Cleveland played host to one of the coolest ever from about 1975-85. The “big” names are fairly well-known: Devo, Pere Ubu, and The Dead Boys. But as any local denizen can tell you, there were probably ten better bands that were never heard outside of town.

Easter Monkeys were one of them, and Splendor Of Sorrow holds an appeal that resonates to this day. “Take Another Pill” kicks things off in a rollicking, drug-addled style. The Easter Monkeys’ punk-rock meets Captain Beefheart-thing is apparent immediately. Another highlight for me is “Heaven 357,” a tribute to Ubu, in the guise of a painful lament.

Easter Monkeys were a ground-breaking amalgam of punk and jazz, yet nowhere near as hokey as that description sounds. The tradition Easter Monkeys share with both punk, (or just plain rock), and jazz, is the DIY mentality. Listening to the workout the band gives both live, and in the studio of “Nailed To The Cross,” one has to wonder how it played later on.

There is a certain amount of satisfaction in coming across such a great package as Splendor Of Sorrow. In addition to the audio-disc of Easter Monkey’s one and only LP, plus a couple of singles and demos, there is also a DVD of a live performance, shot in 1982. Raw and unprofessional as hell, the DVD seems exhumed from someone’s garage. The night was obviously fun for everyone involved.

25 years on, do Easter Monkeys really matter? I would say yes. They combine the best of the Albert Ayler-inspired frenzy of The Stooges Funhouse, with the cool Midwest-branded thing of Husker Du and The Replacements. This is a great, if unknown band.

All in all, Splendor Of Sorrow is a nice find.

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