Release Date: Sep 22, 2009
Record label: Shangri-La
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Singer-Songwriter
It's more jaunty nouveau Traveling Wilburys than folk rock summit as Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and M Ward join forces..
Terrible name, super group. Monsters of Folk are a US indie dreamteam comprised of Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Matt "M. Ward" Ward. It's enough to make you grow a beard with excitement. The three acts first collaborated in a 2004 Rolling Thunder Revue ….
Oh, the folk collaboration. Often, the end result of locking three or more egos in a room to record music is a halfhearted haze of various drugs and alcohol. Remember all those car metaphors from the first Traveling Willbury’s record? That album was enjoyable because of its jocose attitude, but Monsters of Folk, a collaboration between Conor Oberst, M.
The beat on Monsters of Folk is that they’re a kind of a 2009 version of Crosby, Stills & Nash. The comparison makes a lot of sense. Both groups of seasoned folk veterans cast their lots in together for the sake of the song. But Monsters of Folk come off more like a Traveling Wilburys than anything else, a group of merry pranksters cruising through life with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
When M. Ward, Mike Mogis, Jim James, and Conor Oberst announced plans to record an album together, fans were quick to link the supergroup to the Traveling Wilburys, who blazed a similar path 20 years earlier. Truth be told, Monsters of Folk's emphasis on harmony vocals and atmospheric arrangements has just as much in common with the work of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, even if the political concerns that grounded that group are mostly absent here.
Let's be clear about this from the outset. 'Supergroup' is a dirty word. It has overtones of bloated Seventies rock excess and old boys resting on their laurels. There have been good and bad examples as the years have rolled on, but the end results from a myriad of projects have generally been underwhelming.
Squandering potential rarely sounds so good There’s no way Monsters of Folk could ever live up to expectations.postmillennial Traveling Wilburys (“Whole Lotta Losin’”) but generally just being themselves. “Temazcal” overlays Oberst’s grave vocals over James’ background whoops and hollers, creating a sound that neither of them could have made without the other. Ward’s virtuosic range allows the Monsters to incorporate country and early-rock elements on “Say Please” and “The Right Place,” and while Mogis may not have the cache of his bandmates, his production keeps things light and rambling.
Here it is: Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, Matt Ward, and Saddle Creek auteur Mike Mogis' much-ballyhooed entrée-- what one assumes is our era's Traveling Wilburys. During a 2004 collaboration- and cover-heavy tour billed "An Evening with Bright Eyes, Jim James, and M. Ward," the quartet committed to making an album when time permitted.
Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst have expanded modern Americana through their distinct progressions over the past decade: James from Southern-swaddled reverb to falsetto soul; Ward from intimate lo-fi rasp to Buddy Holly-ripping pop renaissance; Oberst from cathartic, solipsistic angst to rootsy wanderlust. Add Saddle Creek überproducer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, and Monsters of Folk's debut threatens to fray at the seams of its diffusive talent.
For this ‘super-group’ collaboration between M. Ward, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes/Mystic Valley Band) and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes/Lullaby For The Working Class/producer for hire) the comparisons with ‘70s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have been lazily and too quickly applied. For whilst there are telekinetic group harmonies and balmy Laurel Canyon vibes within this debut Monsters Of Folk LP, the key difference is a colossal lack of ego and cocaine-sprinkled arrogance.