“When this war is over there better be a feast in my honor.”
By Mike Shanley
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The last time we heard from Strange Monsters, the local trio sang about Optimus Minor, the made-up younger brother of Optimus Prime of Transformers. Rather than make it a one-joke song, guitarist/vocalist Don Strange attempted to figure out what might happen to the sibling of such a hero. This type of perspective proved that Strange Monsters weren’t a sophomoric joke band, but a group that makes smart songs that are also amusing.
CD release show Saturday, December 1. With Go Go Gidget, Jeremy Caywood. Howlers, 4509 Liberty Avenue, Bloomfield. 412-682-0320.
For their new album – Strange Monsters II Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Strange Monsters, out on – Strange Monsters have come up with a new batch of unique characters. “Satan’s Xmas” ponders what the Prince of Darkness might be doing on December 25. “Loserman” presents a new superhero that may or may not be a crusader at all. By the third verse, the character seems to have an existential crisis. But the beauty of it is that Strange doesn’t tell the entire story, leaving listeners to guess what comes next. In “Modern War Fair,” Strange insists, “When this war is over there better be a feast in my honor/ there better be a feast on the table covered in barbeque sauce.” However, it’s unclear which war he means. It could be a domestic one or it could be something greater. Or it could be an illness he alludes to in the first verse. In the end, it doesn’t matter because we’re listening and wondering.
Even when the stories aren’t as detailed, the band creates a varied set of music that sticks to the ears. Along with the singalong quality of “Invertebrate,” they deliver a snotty bit of garage rock in “Pseudomania” that comes with a Farfisa-style organ for authenticity. Elsewhere bassist/keyboardist Maurice Bajcz adds some electric piano and the trio digs into some ’70s style hard rock without excess or irony. In addition to his lyrics, Don Strange knows his way around the fretboard in moments like this. Strange Monsters might not be serious but their music should be taken seriously.