Everybody knows the monkey (Amsterdamned/XXX)
(by JACK RABID)
At first I wished CHRIS BAILEY had continued to record lavish, boozy, pensive solo LPs, instead of forming a third incarnation of The Saints three years ago. After 24 years, the Australian punk-founder with the giant voice doesn't have to rock 'n' roll any more to prove anything. Whereas the quieter, evocative air of 1992's terrific Savage Entertainment and 1994's 54 Days at Sea seemed more of a singular niche, a more personalized contribution from someone who'd already barked at the moon. (see XXX's reissues of The Saints first two LPs, records as inhuman as '57 Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis live, and The Stooges' Raw Power!)
But if Bailey's whim was to recruit unknowns ANDY FAULKNER, MICHAEL BAYLISS, and MARTIN BJERREGAARD, call it The Saints for the first time since 1988's disappointing Prodigal Son, and return to the no-nonsense guitar rock he last perfected on 1982's Out in the Jungle (Casablanca in Australia), then fine. I'd forgotten how incredible his voice sounds, strained by the demands of agitation, volume, and passion, even more than it did while mining the philosophically stoic ruins of his post-divorce life. Even better than 1997's comeback Howling, Everybody Knows the Monkey must be a sequel-of-sorts to 1980's first Saints mach II LP (post-original ED KUEPPER era), The Monkey Puzzle. It returns Bailey to a lead-guitar-dominated, thickened blues-chords rock.
This 10th Saints studio LP (14th for Bailey) whiz-bangs its way, louder than the 1980 Monkey's stupendous standards, "Always," "Let's Pretend," and "Paradise." Bailey's compositions remain superbly drawn, overcoming a too-compact production I initially didn't like. No one-dimensional composer, he remains a master-craftsman, from the wistful air (similar to his solo LPs) of "Everything Turns Sour" and the spy/western-guitar-crested "Glorious Wonder," to the crash and burn of the opening "What Do You Want" and "S+M+M's." It all features his rejuvenated singing. There's a gravel to Bailey's pipes, even grittier than his penultimate Saints mach II works, 1984's A Little Madness to Be Free and 1986's All Fools Day. It's a fear coming through his teeth, a fire under his feet like his live gigs (see 1985's Live in a Mud Hut). The overheated hero is "howling" lights out. Loud, hard rock 'n' roll revival in one's 40s rarely rates.
But Christopher Bailey won't go down without another fight, no matter how much he's accomplished. Chicken king Frank Perdue once gobbled, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken," and stubborn Bailey still spews desire.