Monomyth sound stoned, yes, but one should not infer they sound stupid. In fact, Monomyth is just the opposite. They are lyrically sharp, musically economic and highly efficient in their song structuring. They have no tricks up their sleeve production-wise, but the tracks on Happy Pop Family are coloured by this blissful laziness that is endlessly enjoyable.
On the surface and perhaps at first listen, certain aspects of the band feel underwhelming, maybe too simple. That is Monomyth’s trick though, they pull you in with a great hook or two and force you to listen deeper. Once you catch the wave they are riding, you realize the brilliance of their craft. The guitars, despite not being played at blazing volumes, are more intricately shaped than they sound and are often heroically executed by songwriters Josh Salter and Seamus Dalton. “Palpitations”, for example, sounds like early R.E.M. if they had two Peter Buck’s. Even more than the guitars, the rhythm section appears pedestrian at best, but in Ringo-like fashion they hold everything together and then some.
Happy Pop Family is bursting with lyrical, melodic and tonal references to rock n’ roll past that will further entice any true music nerd. “Cool Blue Hello” has a recurring Big Star reference. “Re: Lease On Life (Place To Go)” channels Loaded-era Velvet Underground and then perfectly erupts with a guitar solo tonally identical to the solo on Television’s “Marquee Moon”. “Fuck With Me” ends with a beautiful half time version of the chorus of “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League. “New Year’s Resolve” features a lick and tone floated from “Octopus’s Garden”.
The lyrics and melodies, like the music beneath them, are rich but simple. “Puppet Creek” is a masterwork in this regard. The latter-half of the song could be the greatest lyrical recreation of the ups and downs a band goes through on the night of a show I’ve ever heard. Changes and shifts in mood happen so fast you could miss them if you aren’t paying close attention or don’t know how they feel first hand. The songs ends with an advertisement: “‘Ring of Fire’ shirts on sale”. I’ve been singing that line for weeks and man does it ever make me want a “Ring of Fire” shirt. There is a song about loving your hometown (“New Year’s Resolve”) and a song about wanting to be hated by everyone in that town (“Aloha”). Salter and Dalton write about normal stuff in thrilling ways. Sunshine, love, drinking in bed, getting t-shirts printed, the first snowfall of the year are all addressed with a sharpness made almost fatal by the hooks they work into their words.
Starting with the album cover, Happy Pop Family seems simple, maybe even a little silly but Monomyth know (presumably from experience) that the best way to draw in a listener is to lure them with something that appeals to the childish desires of the human mind and then suck them in deeper with layers of complexity and meaning. Happy Pop Family is a great achievement in that sense. You feel the joy right away but the richness of the songs will keep you coming back again and again with softened edges and a sense of wonder at the mundanity of it all.