Last year, we had the privilege of reviewing Father Howl‘s debut album; now the San Francisco trio has released a new EP. Fun art is still a factor, thanks to guitarist Aaron Guadamuz; the biggest difference is a fuller sound. The band packs riffs galore into these energetic tracks, making the most of its 23 minutes.
The EP starts off strong as lead single “the barker” explodes from the gate in a frenzy of drums. Then it’s all-out rocking as the guitar and bass kick in, making a head-nodding, toe-tapping groove that nearly turns into a head-banging, boot-kicking mosh pit – but not quite, as instead it veers into Mr. Bungle territory. It’s the best that the band has to offer, squeezed into a tidy three minutes and nine seconds.
This being said, the EP’s finest moment arrives nearly three minutes into “middleschool”, when most of the music drops out, leaving only the sound of a music box, evocative of childhood. Given the title, one should not be surprised by such an inclusion; and yet, after so much rocking and so little rolling, one still sits up and takes notice. Due to the brevity of the full set, the post-rock build never reaches crescendo, leaving that task to the following song. Grabbing the sonic baton from “middleschool”, the title track increases the volume and strength like an athlete running the middle leg of a race, seeming to fall short with only a minute to go, then catching his final wind. The EP’s next increase is in tempo, as “saul tim beau ka” tops out at a breakneck 160 b.p.m. before collapsing in a heap. Gatorade, please! “cremation of care” is the mid-tempo closer, the walk around the track that follows the run and keeps the legs from cramping.
In like fashion, Monarch might be considered an exercise in keeping the band in shape; a solid EP is preferable to an uneven album, and we’re glad the band chose not to pad the work or to wait too long to present it. California’s monarch season is nearly here, and the annual visitors now have their fluttering soundtrack. (Richard Allen)