II by Monster TreasureRelease date: October 6, 2017
Label: Leisure & District
Friends from high school Briana, Rachael, RJ all found themselves back in Stockton, North California, bored. So, getting together to play music and liking what they created is how Monster Treasure was born. Releasing their self-titled album on the Leisure & District label in 2016, now barely a year later they follow up with second album II. Clearly not a band who spend too much time dithering on profound or witty album titles instead they rely on an it is what is says on the tin approach. And this directness is pretty much how it also transcends into their sound. Fuzzed up buzzsaw guitars inter-wined with sun-kissed dreamy vocals creates an immediate likeable sonic haziness.
They will remind you of a blend of bands, especially from the tail end of 1980’s indie through to shoegaze and into grunge of the early 1990’s. I will admit the first few plays this reviewer spent trying to pinpoint their creative mesh of sounds of bands you will hear. So here goes; Band of Susans, Nirvana, Swervedriver, Ride, Chapterhouse, My Bloody Valentine, Ash, Belly, (early) Teenage Fanclub, Lush and probably more from the said scenes and time periods onwards. But while this may sound unfair, what materialises on further listens is Monster Treasure’s knack of writing infectious punky, grunge spirited vibes in conjunction with drifty floating in the air harmonies and hooks. In fact, their own description ‘mermaid punk’ is a pretty good summing up.
They pretty much blitz through the album making it all sound easy and effortless. After an introduction of Sonic Youth styled fuzz and feedback they sprint out of the blocks with the indie punk charges of ‘Searchers’, ‘Neon Garden’, and ‘No Hope’. Briana and Rachel’s dreamy sang melodies juxtaposes nicely with the loud fuzzy guitars and the driving with a purpose rhythm section. The first half of the album is pretty much a heads’ down, short ‘n’ snappy, speedy, fizzle and fuzz dash.
But it is from the middle section onwards where the songs stand out more against the fuzzy bluster. ‘Buttercream’ glides on a giddy haze of ethereal guitar reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. The slowed down but heavy blast of sonic shoegaze heaviness in ‘Candy Sun’ provides a welcome variation and in the process, let’s in all their home state Californian sun and heat while the vocals swoon blissfully. The other highlight is ‘Leave’ which is a back to the start of the album’s indie punk drive but it stands above the parapet due to the attention of a wonderful melody and its immensely catchy and memorable nature. In an ideal world, an indie/alternative hit in waiting.
It is when they get the right mixture of guitar fuzz and hooky noise, helps to transform the soothing vocal melodies further to the fore. And they hit the right spot on the Ride hinted ‘The Fall’. While the loud punchy production does help propel their noisy effectiveness. In fact, there is a certain charm in its youthful energy among the tales of relationship break-ups bathed in distortion and fuzz. However, it does fade away at the album’s end with the undercooked ‘So What’ and ‘Come Over’, a victim of sounding too much like what has already gone on before so not really hitting home.
But for fans of all the afore-mentioned influences there should be something to enjoy in Monster Treasure. They might not be reinventing the wheel but they keep the spokes turning nicely. When they stray from the faster indie punk furnace they show a band who have the potential to take their sound down further wider interesting paths. II is best when they display more, light and shade, and variation. It is a significant step up from their debut but one feels this could be driving down one decent, trustworthy road to a more exhilarating highway ahead.