We’ve already learnt to expect the unexpected from Munky, one of last year’s great discoveries. The wry observations, indeed pure sass of their debut e.p. Un, Deux, Trois, Cat soon took a much darker turn within the unsettling, almost apocalyptic imagery and heavy guitar onslaught of follow-up Megaton. News of an unexpected new Munky release was always going to be welcome and Closed Door Policy sees the band exploring more of the former and a bit less of the latter when it comes to their self-styled “disco-punk” furrow. As always with Munky, it isn’t nearly that simple. ”The song was written about isolating oneself from others, for fear of overexposing yourself, for fear of growing stale,” the band tell us. A tale for the times, then.
The Covid-19 outbreak has thrown a lot of plans for 2020. The band had originally planned a later release, but with Spring and early-Summer tour plans in disarray they decided to crack on with putting out new music and staying in the forefront of their fans’ thoughts. “We’ve decided to just embrace the chaos,” frontman Zac Stephenson told Underscore Part 3 from his Dublin lockdown bunker last week. For the new release, Munky have returned to Darklands Studios in their hometown, with the reassuring presence of Dan Doherty (Fontaines D.C) back behind the desk.
Opening with a drum shuffle offering a subtle nod to Sunday, Bloody Sunday it becomes immediately clear that Closed Door Policy is going to wring another reinvention out of the Munky sound. That famously tight rhythm section sets up a solid four-to-the-floor foundation while picked guitar-harmonics hold aloft a career-best Zac Stephenson vocal; pinpoint and understated but hitting all its marks, while leaving plenty of room for manoeuvre as the tune builds to its climax.
“The cleaner, strummed guitar that the band employ here sucks in more fresh air than a hike in the Wicklow Mountains, while the beautifully contained groove meanders imperceptibly into head-nodding riffs.”
Closed Door Policy sees Munky playing well within themselves for once, for deliberate effect of course. The cleaner, strummed guitar that the band employ here sucks in more fresh air than a hike in the Wicklow Mountains, while the beautifully contained groove meanders imperceptibly into head-nodding riffs. Stephenson is overtly reflective and melancholic in his storytelling but throwing out only insecure half-lines; “Honesty is failing me/Closed door policy/As long as nobody sees/Happily bleed internally.”
The clipped guitar licks in the instrumental section of Closed Door Policy are inspired, setting up an increasingly frantic denouement in which backing vocals from Toisín and Sinéad McConville swallow-swoop in alongside Stephenson, bringing with them a twinkle or two of celtic soul. Like a great novel, Munky excel in bringing together strands of ideas and fashioning them into something much greater than the sum of their parts by the end.
More facets than a cut diamond and shimmering just as brightly: it’s a valiant return for these versatile Dubliners.
Words: Iain Dalgleish @idalgleishmusic