Friday, March 23, 2007

138. New Monkees - New Monkees (1987)

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.

Grade: C-
Fave Song: Whatever It Takes

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was an original Monkee fan back in the day, and I remember these new guys. I couldn't believe they were going to try to update it/them, just like you said - "new Rolling Stones"???? Omg, lol, what a trip. Well Micky said it best, when in an interview on either GMA or the Today Show at the time he said something like "We know who you are, and you're such an idiot!", when they were asked their opinion on the New Monkees and who was behind it all. Of course, it was said as a joke, as he then proceeded to fall off the couch and roll on the floor laughing - I just feel sorry for these new guys since then, because what happened to them after? I don't think they were heard from again individually?? Sad. Btw, I also heard that Jason Nesmith had tried out for a part in this show, and didn't get it! Lol, one of their own kids, lol. What a trip.

steve said...

The show was okay, but the album is pretty good; much better than anything the Monkees came out with post 1987.

Anonymous said...

I liked both the show and the album....It wasn't their fault that it didn't last. From the looks of them they seemed that they were having fun. I would love to get the album again and see if I can still sing along..I also wonder if the shows are being sold on DVD anytime soon

Anonymous said...

I like this album.

Anonymous said...

I liked the NEW MONKESS just as much as the original. The music was the best part. Some 20 + years past and would'nt you know it? A reunion. Yes they did! The DVDs of the show are available through Dino Kovas, I think he still is doing that. To contact him find him at the New Monkees yahoo group or his personal Myspace page. If you go through the yahoo page say hi to Marty, who is known to drop in quite a bit.

Mtree said...

Oh wow. I read your comment about "Whatever it Takes" having a Perfect-Strangers-like riff and thought... hey, I have an Oak Ridge Boys cd with a song called "Whatever it Takes". And it has a silly riff that sounds like that. It's the same song. The Oaks covered the New Monkees. yikes.
I could send it if you're dying to hear it