Monkey Puzzle: Astro Girl and Ashes

April 2008

Pub debates about bands can get heated, but you can rarely go far wrong if you say "They were better in the early days, before their production got too slick."

Not so for Monkey Puzzle. While the likes of Pixies, Hole or REM might have sounded more interesting with their earlier, rougher production, Monkey Puzzle are an act in serious need of smoother production.

This two-track demo from the Oxford and Abingdon quartet suffers from low sound quality and poor mixing, which makes it hard to judge the songs on their own merit. However, opener Astro Girl is obviously a strong track live, with its crunchy guitars and infectious hooks.

Ashes is a disappointment after that. It's too long, an attempt to be epic that doesn't come off, although perhaps it would work with better production values and some more instrumentation to flesh out the melody.

I feel it's completely unfair to judge Monkey Puzzle on the strength of their demo. The kicking drums and impassioned vocals suggest they can do so much more than comes across on record.

They gig regularly, so anybody interested in how the band really sound would be better advised to see them live, where you can enjoy their stage presence and a cold beer at the same time. And perhaps afterwards you'll be able to revive the pub debate about whether good production is always the enemy of keeping it real.