Review: Monophonics – In Your Brain

San Francisco, the end of the sixties. Peace and love on Haight / Ashbury; Santana and Sly & the Family Stone riding high in popularity. Heady times. San Fran’s Monophonics were all too young to be there at the time of course but the era has had a profound influence on them as has the music of the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, Norman Whitfield and Funkadelic.

With their third release,”In Your Brain”, heavy, chugging grooves laced with wah-wah, horns, spacey organ and psychedelic vocals are the order. It’s fuzzy, gritty and refreshingly different. Mixed by that other heavy cat, Sergio Rios from Orgone, it sounds suitably out there. It’s been a few years since I last visited San Fran but I’d like to think this would be a fitting soundtrack for the city’s hippest hangs.

One of the standout tracks here is “There’s A Riot Going On”. Perhaps this was intended to be the ‘missing’ track from Sly’s 1971 hit LP (it appears on the track listing at the end of side one, but is silent and clocks in at 0:00 running time. Sly never intended the track to be there of course, explaining that he “felt there should be no riots”). The Monophonics’ ‘version’ is a fitting imagination of what it might have sounded like, with socio-political lyrics fitting of both the times then and now.

“Deception” drops the tempo and stretches out nicely, while Fanny Franklin is the ideal choice of guest vocalist for the rousing “All Together”, her voice really effective against the undulating, heavy groove and Sly-ish background vocals. Also somewhat Sly-ish is, “Say You Love Me” featuring some nice sitar over a slow burning groove, singer Kelly Finnigan’s well suited vocal and gentle organ solo. “Foolish Love” is a stretched out groove that sounds like a Norman Whitfield production with its acid drenched funk. We also get two well chosen covers – Ike Turner’s “Thinking Black” fits right in with the template and packs a thrilling dance floor punch. For their excellent take on Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang”, the band produce a heavy arrangement that sounds great and sets it apart from the original.

“In Your Brain” effectively and authentically delivers a solid psychedelic soul funk experience. It’s a fine tribute to their influences while coming across as firmly their own sound. More power to Monophonics.