Here Comes the Monolith

Recalling the fuzzy '80s/'90s daze of "shoegazer pop" (Lush, My Bloody Valentine) as well as the full flowering of late-'70s new wave (i.e., the otherwise "punk rock" that could get some mainstream radio play), San Francisco's Monolith specializes in a cheerily hazy brand of pop that manages to sound dated and timeless at the same time. Charmingly cheesy, in other words.

Monolith's tandem vocal harmonies of Dahlia Ramirez and Bill Rousseau have a sweet, gauzy Summer of Love glaze, while their music combines an optimistic lushness, achieved by combining tinny synthesizer lines that sound lifted from an early Devo album, an insidious melodic sense absorbed from countless listens to psychedelic-period Beatles and Electric Light Orchestra, and as icing on the cake, some punchy Who/Cheap Trick-styled power chords.

The charming "Dandelion Storm" is a cross between Blondie in girl-group mode (the vocals here simply ache with winsome regret) and the Cars in their chunky, salacious "Just What I Needed" mode. The loping morning-after feel of "Ruby" is given relish and contrast by the gently swirling melancholia of strings and a thorny guitar solo, sounding like a long-lost offspring of Magical Mystery Tour. Here Comes falters only with the portentous conclusion "Trilogy," a portion of which doesn't so much evoke Tommy-era Who as blatantly imitate its style and melodramatics -- you can practically see the guitarist doing Pete Townshend guitar-bashing windmills in the studio. Fortunately, that's but one track -- overall the Monolith will impress younger listeners seeking smart, orchestrated emo-pop, and older listeners and music fanatics will find it a guilty pleasure, one where they can engage in a round of "spot the influence" to sounds so captivating, they'll fancy it in spite of themselves. I know I did.


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