By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Though a studio recording, the Tel Aviv-based Monotonix's Drag City debut EP Body Language is best appreciated as a memento of the delirious tumult this band puts on live. Live, you can't tell (nor do you care) whether hirsute singer Ami Shalev is singing in English or Hebrew or even Pentecostal tongues. On Body Language, though the vocals are just a tad buried in the mix, you can clearly detect that the words are in English. And though Shalev is a fine singer, there's no clear message to be gleaned from his lyrics.
And yet at their shows you realize that they are indeed making a profound statement. After a half-hour or so of alternately frightening and hilarious mayhem—after Shalev has dumped multiple gallons of garbage on his drummer's head, set fire to his own pants, climbed 30 feet over the stage, perhaps broken a bone or two, while guitarist Yonatan Gat and the drummer body-surf, and you genuinely stare in amazement, wondering what those crazy fuckers are gonna do next—it all makes sense.
No society is tenser than Israel, no country more angst-ridden over its very existence. And only great angst and a tremendous damming up of emotions could breed a need for the sort of intense, soul-cleansing catharsis Monotonix delivers live. The band is far more about agitating your soul than they are about elevating your mind.
To judge this band without seeing them live is folly. Body Language is a better-than-average modern-day psychedelic blues-rock CD. Monotonix, on the other hand, just might be the most intense live rock band in the world.