It used to be that a band's records enticed you to the live show. Monotonix's Drag City debut EP Body Language, on the other hand, is best appreciated as a memento of the delirious tumult this Israeli trio put on live.
Monotonix are disciples of the fusion of blues, punk, proto-metal and garage rock long ago perfected by Blue Cheer and the MC5. The lineup consists of drums, guitar (rigged through a bass amp and a guitar amp) and vocals, so you could file Monotonix alongside the White Stripes or Black Keys, plus a singer.
But that would be a mistake. Guitarist Yonatan Gat is a master of the type of fuzz-toned rhythm guitar you hear in your head after illegal, helmet-to-helmet contact with Shawn Merriman. As with their gigs, the EP opens with Gat repetitively hammering a primal chord in duet with the drummer; Gat later uncorks some pulverizing bluesy riffage on "Summers and Autumns," provides a lovely chiming intro on "No Metal," and throws in a sweet refrain and other moments of real beauty on the title track.
Live, you can't tell whether hirsute singer Ami Shalev is singing in English, Hebrew or Pentecostal tongues. On Body Language, though the vocals are slightly buried in the mix, you can clearly detect he's using English. And though Shalev is a fine singer, there's no clear message to be gleaned from his lyrics.
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And yet at Monotonix's shows, you realize they are indeed making a profound statement. After you've spent a half-hour or so genuinely not knowing just what those crazy fuckers are gonna do next, all while Gat and the drummer steep the body-surfing crowd in that feral Blue Cheer soup, it all makes sense. Only a society as tense as Israel could create a band as cathartic as Monotonix. While Body Language is a good psychedelic blues-rock CD, it can't compare with Monotonix's live show, which may be the most intense in the world.