Western Bloc is the project name of musician Barry James McCarthy. Not too long ago we reviewed Dead Doves & Rotting Olive Branches. The artist is now back with Monkey Christ. I would describe this music as experimental post-punk. Artists like Joy Division and Wire come to mind but so does some of the later work of Scott Walker. There is a sense of the absurd in line with David Lynch.
The almost ten-minute opener “Monkey Christ” might be the best song on the album. I loved the dark and dissonant soundscape. Every element is sort of doing its own thing but it still works in unique ways. The vocals are hard to make out but are more like spoken word.
We get a little more conventional with a 4/4 beat and traditional song structure on “The Last Man to Read All Books.” That being said, I loved this tune. “Garden of Need” is like this mix of Joy Division and psychedelic sounding guitar. “Home” is a beautiful but dark slow burn.
“The Sound and the Beauty '' is frantic and intense but also sort of meditative while “A Place I’ve Never Been” is one of the catchiest songs in the batch. “Oscar and the Spaceship” and “Were We Even Here at All?” ponder existential questions under a dark veil. Last up is “Walpurgisnacht Cap” which is an instrumental send off.
I liked his previous release but this one was even better. McCarthy does an exceptional job tying in themes but also disperses energy in the right way. For instance there are some slow burns but also songs with a more kinetic feel. The benefit here is listening from beginning to end. My only critique was I was often struggling to make out the lyrics. I wanted some more clarity.
Overall, this is a great album. Fans of post-punk, theater of the absurd and a good dose of darkness should love this. Recommended.
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