From the Department of Everything Old is New Again:
In 1987 Coca-Cola and Warner Brothers put together a can't-miss proposal: Considering the renewed popularity of The Monkees with America's young people - thanks to MTV's airings of the old TV show and a 3/4 reunion tour - let's update the concept for our modern times and laugh all the way to the bank!
Thus were born the New Monkees: Marty, Dino, Jared and Larry. Much like the original Monkees, they were given their own television show and a record to promote within said show. And much like New Coke, everyone still preferred the original.
How disrespectful of a concept was this? Imagine a band coming along and saying, "We're going to call ourselves the New Rolling Stones." Granted, The Monkees were never known for integrity. They were soullessly manufactured to capitalize on Beatlemania and their managers had no respect for musical creativity. The band succeeded artistically despite this, thanks to a stellar group of songwriters feeding them material. The original four deserved more than to have their name copped.
Stunning lack of conceptual originality aside, the New Monkees could have filled a boy band void somewhere between New Edition and New Kids On The Block, had they only produced some good pop songs. Instead, the album is just shy of terrible. The lyrics are strangely obsessed with sex and the music is strangely intent on being Bon Jovi lite.
Before discussing the songs, it's worth mentioning that all four members did actually play on the album. In true Monkees fashion, two vocalists share the duties: Guitarist Larry Saltis and bassist Marty Ross. Unlike the Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz, their voices are barely discernable from one another. Drummer Dino contributes Springsteenish vocals on the closer, Turn It Up. Apparently Jared was only there as a pretty face. He's only listed for "background vocals."
The album kicks off with What I Want, a sordid tale of a fast woman, a la Little Red Corvette. That's all fine and good, but I wonder why a project obviously aimed at a child and teen audience didn't contain lyrics more friendly for that audience. The New Monkees were horny, judging by the terrible The Way She Moves, the icky Burnin' Desire and I Don't Know, an ode to ambivalence that features the line: "I don't know how I feel about her / Is it love or only the night?".
A couple of one-hit-wonders contributed to the songwriting. St.Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion) guy John Parr co-wrote Do It Again, another inappropriately suggestive tune that rips off David Bowie's China Girl hook. Tom Cochrane, who later told us about life being a highway, serves up a plate of cheese called Boy Inside The Man.
Perhaps the worst song on the album is Affection, a shouty affair about, not kidding here, lonely people who resort to suicide and rape.
There ARE actually some highlights. Whatever It Takes, despite featuring a keyboard line that sounds like the Perfect Strangers theme, is catchy and features no inappropriate come-ons. Ten-to-one this was the single. Carlene features a great chorus, and Corner Of My Eye has Cars keyboards and an appealing "I'm a wanderin' man" mentality. The latter is the only song to feature a writing credit from one of the four New Monkees (Larry again).
Album sales suffered, rightfully so, the show only produced an unlucky 13 episodes, and the New Monkees returned to the primordal ooze. Just as well. Perhaps the funniest thing about the whole project is that it's not even as good as The Monkees' own 1987 album, Pool It , which easily ranks among the worst things they've done.
Fave Song: Whatever It Takes