While it has undoubtedly been a vintage year for the Dublin music scene, Munky have been content to shun the crowd and plough their own distinct psych-funk-disco-punk furrow. Springtime saw the release of the band’s debut e.p. Un, Deux, Trois, Cat which, frankly, hasn’t been off our playlists ever since.
Munky’s return is predictably perverse, in that it immediately discards what appeared on the debut e.p. to be a winning formula; the wry observations, lyrical barbs and explicit sexual politics of much of Un, Deux, Trois, Cat has been jettisoned, replaced by an overwhelmingly more unsettling atmosphere. Never a band to do things by halves and with Dan Doherty (Fontaines D.C.) on production duties, Megaton’s arrival feels more like a detonation than a release. Barra Carlin again provides his unique visual interpretation of the music through his arresting artwork.
The track builds from an insistent palpitation of bass guitar and drums, Conor Lawlor spattering the canvas with scratches and screeches of guitar which could be borrowed straight from Tom Morello’s palette, while front man Zac Stephenson sets about obsessing over as much unsettling imagery as he can cram into a four-minute track. “I’ve been sitting in my room thinking about how I finish you” comes the opening sinister mutter of the song, an evil smile almost audible.
“Zac Stephenson pulls dark phrases out of the air like a demented bird hauling the entrails out of a piece of carrion.”
The post-apocalyptic Fallout 3-inspired verses are like scenes from a David Lynch-directed Mad Max sequel, a road trip turned sinister. Zac Stephenson pulls dark phrases out of the air like a demented bird hauling the entrails out of a piece of carrion; decaying faces, haunting, scavenging, distant screams, scuttling cockroaches, sacrificing kids, “cyclone nausea” – it’s all here. All the while, a body-sway groove hints at something jumpy just around the corner.
The chorus is pure guitar and vocal onslaught. “Can’t escape the megaton!” bellows Stephenson while the guitars shift out of syncopation with the rhythm section, reinforcing the disorientating mood of the tune. The second verse brings relative calm and random namechecks of obscure Irish villages but by this time Munky have already warned you that there’s no point in getting too comfortable. The fade out even gives a nod to Radiohead, although the band’s “you do it to yourself” is a lot more Karma Police than it is Just.
Megaton is another solid release from one of this year’s most exciting bands. Munky have again shown their versatility, their skills in developing mood in the music and their willingness to take whatever they do to the extreme with no quarter given, not for one second.