Life experience, viewed through a sort of existentialist paradigm, is an extremely persistent animal. There are certain lessons that life seems bound and determined to teach us, no matter how many times we attempt to ignore the moral. Foremost among those teachings and concurrently the one that is seemingly reinforced most often in our lives is “don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a little shameful to admit, but I’ve spent thirty years on this earth and occasionally still have slips in my understanding of this basic tenet.
I judged Monster Truck and their album “Furiosity” before I had listened to it. I did my due diligence on the vitals, or so I thought: Canadian rock band, blue collar naming convention, a lot of beards. I thought ‘here we go: another generic, booze-addled butt rock album fit for goin’ out muddin’ and not much else.’
Someday, I’ll learn. I promise. In the meantime, Monster Truck’s new record is not anything I mentioned above, with the exception that it is a rock album. There are going to be plenty of editorials written about how “Furiosity” is a long lost cousin of Molly Hatchet or the Allman Brothers or Golden Earring or some other blues-infused classic rock, but those comparisons (while partially accurate) are judging the songs on their sound alone and not correctly gauging the spirit of the music. In short, “Furiosity” is very much like “Robot Hive”-era Clutch, with just a little less oomph (that’s a technical term for all you kids out there) and a little more soul.
Monster Truck’s greatest feat for this album is finding a way to execute the tried and true tenets of blues rock and roll in a way that seems fresh and does not blend into the background of the genre’s sixty-plus year history. There’s no one trick I can put into words that exemplifies how Monster Truck figures it out, but listen to the easy magnetism and subtle harmonies of “Psychics” and it should be fairly evident. As it is, “Psychics” is part of a four song barge that begins with “Power of the People” and ends with “Oh Lord” that floats on down the river with both aural power and listening ease. As a block of songs, this is the strongest, most memorable part of the record and the finest showcase of Monster Truck’s melodic je ne sais quoi.
Of course, those songs are all under four minutes and two of them are under three, which means Monster Truck clearly understands that brevity can be key in rock songwriting. Naturally by contrast, they follow that set with “For the Sun” a seven mnute cut that drags unnecessarily and is badly positioned in the middle of the record. Why do bands do this? The country blues of album closer “My Love is True” are better written and would have sufficiently filled the album’s ballad quota.
For the back half, Monster Truck shows some versatility, opting for a Priestess-like sheen for the two-minute experimental romp “The Giant.” Additionally, there is just a sprinkle of decoration that might be confused for an influence of gospel music, and it comes from more than just the hammond organ (or a reasonable facsimile.) It has something to do with the major chords and uptempo feel of each cut, notably on “Sweet Mountain River.”
The sheer honesty of “Furiosity” is very much to its credit, and helps propel the album above the swamp of swampy albums that have been concocted in the name of revival. In an ocean of also-rans, Monster Truck does a good enough job of cutting through the waves that the few generic moments it does have can be easily forgiven.
I can’t quite explain it, but despite being just a little outside my wheelhouse, I really like “Furiosity” a lot. Don’t make the mistake I made and assume that you know what this is before you’ve listened to it. There’s a lot to like, and “Furiosoty” is an easy listen that coasts on by.