As long as vocalist Ami Shalev is emptying garbage cans on the head of drummer Haggai Fershtman, who in turn allows his drum set to be dismantled and passed around the venue like a high school “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to join the drumline?” presentation, Monotonix will always be chained to their live show. Coupled with the fact that they’re a nearly non-stop touring entity causes many to treat their actual album like mere footnotes. There’s a chance that this could change with Not Yet, which is far and beyond the Israeli garage rock trio’s most fully formed, varied stab at being recognized as a viable studio act as opposed to just some bizarre performance art installment with riffs, all while maintaining the concise nature of their previous releases.
Where Not Yet immediately differs from its predecessors, 2008’s Body Language EP and 2009’s Where Were You When It Happened?, is in the limited appearance of colossal, song-dominating guitar riffs from Yonatan Gat. That might seem like a bit of a backwards compliment, but in reality, while Gat’s past guitar work was grab-by-the-throat immediate, it also kind of seemed like he kept his true abilities slightly in check so that the songs would be easier to play live amidst all of the chaos. He offers himself no such luxury on Not Yet, bouncing with playful glee from atonal blasts of noise and sludgy chords to nimble and woozy lead parts, usually several times within the same song. Look no further than opener “Nasty Fancy” for evidence of this, its central riff spat out in a creative stutter that only gets more engaging as the song goes on. After unspooling a series of dizzy, drunken riffs on “Blind Again,” Gat tears into some abstract approximation of a guitar solo while everyone else in the band attempts to match his energy. It’s a gloriously primal moment that’s a little hard to come by elsewhere these days.
Meanwhile, Shalev continues to establish himself as a proudly unhinged frontman, presiding over a track list that reads like the random thoughts of a veteran hedonist. Some songs feature parts that could conceivably be sung along to, but Shalev offers enough of his previous sleaze to dissuade anyone from thinking this is a cleaner, more approachable version of Monotonix. He rants as easily as he howls, giving songs three repeated-word titles (“Try Try Try,” “Fun Fun Fun”) in an attempt to hammer home his messages as bluntly as possible.
If you’re approaching a Monotonix album expecting anything approaching refinement or poetry, you’re going to leave sorely disappointed. But, with Not Yet, Monotonix delivers a tight half hour of intensely likable scuzz rock that gives a solid kick to the lizard part of the brain. Sure, the added complexity this time around might result in some not-as-kinetic live shows, but in a heartening gesture, they now seem concerned with commanding your respect just as much as your hips.