The delightful ’80s San Diego outfit remodels and returns – and in fine form.
BY DAVE STEINFELD
From the “it’ll happen when Hell freezes over” files… The Monroes, best known for their 1982 hit “What Do All the People Know,” have returned after more than 35 years! As aficionados of the New Wave era know, this San Diego band not only had one of the great songs of their day but also one of the most bizarre stories (read my article on The Monroes here).
The Monroes 2.0 is an apt title — not only because this is their second proper release but also because it presents a different lineup from the one on their 1982 EP. Singer-bassist Bob Monroe, in fact, is the only original band member in the current quintet. 2.0 finds him joined by guitarists Ronny Jones and Barry Scott, keyboardist Dave Hart Pomeranz and drummer Bob Sale — all of whom have been in the trenches for years, playing with a wide variety of artists. While original vocalist Tony Ortiz and keyboard whiz Eric Denton are certainly missed, this new lineup has talent to burn. Moreover, the band now boasts three strong singer-songwriters and, while Bob Monroe may be the leader, it feels like a democracy.
The first four songs on the new album are essentially flawless — and each one is different from the next. Monroe’s “White Lace and Blue Jeans” kicks things off in fine style. It’s a catchy paean to a woman who is “sometimes wild and crazy, sometimes so austere.” Next up is “Midnight in Hollywood,” which spotlights Jones (with some fine backing vocals from Laurie Beebe Lewis). In a just world, this song would be blasting from car radios in suburbia — and it probably would have been in the ‘80s! Imagine a less corny Bon Jovi or a less quirky Goo Goo Dolls and you’ve got the idea. Scott’s “It’s a Good Thing God Will Forgive You” is third and Monroe bats cleanup with “I Could Sing.” These last two tracks are more topical and less relationship-oriented than most of 2.0 — but both are terrific.
If the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the standard of those first four songs, it definitely has its moments. While Scott’s “Walking with Renee” is a bit overproduced to these ears, his “Tell Me Tonight” is top-notch, Beatlesque pop. Jones cements his credentials as the band’s rocker on “Gotta Get Gone.” And the disc closes with Monroe’s “Mad for You,” an unabashed song of love and devotion. It’s not every day that a band from more than three decades ago comes back sounding better than ever. If you missed out on the talents of Bob Monroe and his cohorts the first time around, don’t make that mistake twice.
DOWNLOAD: “Midnight in Hollywood,” “I Could Sing” and “Tell Me Tonight”