Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time album review

Let it be known: Steve Mason has some mighty balls. When I talk to my musician friends, they hold this familiar notion that you should try to refrain from releasing a double LP. Its a feat that is generally more impressive to the musician than the audience. Its a nice pat on the back. “I just wrote twenty songs. Listen to them all in a row.” It can be overwhelming as a whole, and it underwhelms each song which may have found a brighter spotlight in a normal 10-14 track album. When you get up to twenty songs in a release, you have to take the album as a whole. It becomes more of a concept. This brings us to the second massive gonad of Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time. It opens with poetry. Yes, you heard me. Throughout the albums are little skits, sound clips and poetic phrasings. In addition to these short pace breakers, the actual tracks contain a massive range of diversity. The slow and soft harmonies of “A Lot of Love” is immediately followed by the reggae beats of  “The Last of The Heroes.” While Mason fully engages with the piano/bass classic rock roots kit, he doesn’t hesitate to texture certain moments with choirs, orchestral breaks and transitions between your typical piano sounds and an electric synthesizer. There are even horn sections if you listen for them!

What Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time is, is ambitious. It is an art project. The singles “Fight Them Back” and “Oh My Lord” are good little pop songs that will keep the general listener engaged, and the final song “Come To Me” effectively washes over the listener. It serves as a calming relief to the auditory journey Mason takes you on. The whole album can be tiring at times, but in a good way. With twenty songs, you have to expect the peaks and valleys. They are well timed in Monkey Minds. I imagine that there are folks driving along who unconsciously find themselves singing along. This is the subtle tragedy of the work as a whole. Mason states that, and the title implies, that we live in a world of “little capitalists” who have gone off the track of our intended purpose. He wanted to gather everything he knew about music and the world and put it in an album. I think he wanted to wake people up to the perspective of life he carries. Unfortunately, such a message requires a sort of in-your-face attitude that Monkey Minds lacks most of the time. It is soothing to the point where you don’t listen to what’s being said. You just enjoy the atmosphere. Even when he speaks directly to the audience, it serves more aesthetic purposes between tracks as opposed to a direct message to the world. But I commend Mr. Mason. I commend the message. Who cares if it doesn’t enlighten the world? Who cares if the album can be a tad schizophrenic? It was a damn good effort, and a damn good listen.

By Eric Wong

Eric is a writer from San Francisco. Being Asian, he was forcibly inducted into classical music and choirs at a young age. So clearly, he knows what he's talking about.

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