Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Rhino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Psychedelic/Garage, AM Pop, Psychedelic Pop, Sunshine Pop, Bubblegum
“Hey, hey, we are The Monkees,You know we love to please,A manufactured image,With no philosophies” – Ditty Diego (War Chant), Head It’s 2016, and it’s no longer a surprising thing – oh so contentious in 1966 – to talk about the Monkees‘ origins as a (gasp) manufactured band, who didn’t play all the instruments on their records (the horror). Did they not lampoon themselves in Head? Have countless groups not been assembled since, burning brightly but briefly, posing no threat to Proper Music? And were the poptimist wars not fought, authenticity’s mangled form held up as a warning to future generations? But what might be surprising, in their 50th year as a band, is that the Monkees should have made an album like Good Times! The tracks are a mixture of self-penned and guest-written songs and of new and old sessions and, while this kind of archive-digging hodge-podge can be a daunting proposition, it’s exactly this mixture of past and present, of inside and outside – returning to the formula of their earliest albums – which suits the Monkees so well. There’s a perfect example in the opening title track, a new recording of a song Mickey Dolenz worked on with Harry Nilsson, using a vocal track he had recorded.
The reservoir of goodwill for The Monkees is infinite – and that’s exactly as it should be. Perhaps you were of the right age and disposition in 1966-68 to have drooled at the very sight of their eight-button, bib-front shirts, or giggled at the mophead-Marx Bros vivacity of their TV show. Then again, perhaps you admired their palace-revolution stance when the ostensibly manufactured marionettes demanded to play on their recordings – before conscientiously and comprehensively defacing their own image in the remarkable 1968 film, Head.
Designed as a celebration of the Monkees' 50th anniversary, Good Times! certainly is a joyous revival of the cheerful jangle that characterized the group's big '60s hits, yet underneath the frivolity is an unspoken truth: this 2016 album is quite likely the band's last. After all, two decades passed between this and its 1996 predecessor, Justus, during which time Davy Jones died; in another twenty years, the surviving Monkees would be in their nineties, an unlikely age to rock & roll. If Good Times! is indeed a farewell, bidding adieu with a buoyant love letter to everything that made the group is a hell of a way to say goodbye.
The central conceit of Good Times!, the first album in 20 years by ‘60s pop icons The Monkees, is not a new one. Match an artist in the autumn of life with a much-younger producer/songwriter who is an unabashed fan of the veteran’s older work and a goal of splitting the difference between the sounds of the past and present. It worked so well for Loretta Lynn/Jack White, Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin, and Mavis Staples/Jeff Tweedy, that it’s bound to work for Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, and Peter Tork as they hit the studio with Adam Schlesinger, right? On this count, Good Times! succeeds handily.
The Monkees' first album in nearly 20 years is also their best since the Sixties – to be precise, since the Head soundtrack in 1968. (Sorry, Instant Replay diehards.) It's a labor of love – not just for the three surviving lads, but for all the Monkeemaniacs pitching in, headed by producer Adam Schlesinger (from Ivy and Fountains of Wayne), who contributes the gem "Our Own World." It nails the classic summer-jangle Monkees sound, with seriously fantastic new tunes from Rivers Cuomo, Andy Partridge and the none-more-mod squad of Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller. Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and the mighty Peter Tork are all in top shape–their voices have aged as handsomely as they have.
First album for 20 years from PreFab Four’s surviving trio. This, The Monkees’ twelfth album, their first since 1996’s Justus, reunites Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith (Davy Jones died in 2012). Like their 60s albums, it’s a hodgepodge of self-penned songs and songs written by others, with a few vintage rave-ups thrown into the mix – ‘mix’ being the operative word for this patchy affair.
I guess that I liked the Monkees about as much as most people did. I didn’t have all of their albums, but their best songs do have that certain ‘something’ that can pull you in and be infectious. Their song catalog range covered a wide swath, from the rather silly, to the catchiest pop gems. It didn’t hurt that they had a solid, recognizable sound, were very personable guys, and god, their music was just fun! Best of all, their new release, Good Times, will make you a believer again.
The Monkees have unexpected fans: the leaders of Weezer, XTC, Death Cab for Cutie, Oasis, the Jam and Fountains of Wayne. They all wrote songs for “Good Times!,” the Monkees album appearing nearly half a century after the group’s arrival as TV characters in September 1966. Two surviving Monkees, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, are on a 50th-anniversary tour; the third, Michael Nesmith, rejoins them on this album.