I Like Monkeys
:: Swollen Monkeys – Ghost In Hollywood ::
You know what? I like monkeys. And for that reason alone, albums by some bands that wouldn’t normally deserve my second glance instead get undivided attention, even when they are horribly named. You’d be hard pressed to come up with a worse band name than Swollen Monkeys, or a title less appealing than “After Birth Of The Cool”, but that didn’t stop me from purchasing this.
Thankfully, the album is chock full of interesting people, and horns. Lots of friggin’ horns; five horn players playing a kitchen sinkful of brass and woodwinds. Their ringleader was Ralph Carney, a prolific multi-instrumentalist who was in Tin Huey, The Waitresses, and has appeared on scads of other people’s albums, from the B-52’s to Tom Waits, in addition to his solo projects. The other eight members of Swollen Monkeys have various incestuous musical ties to each other, and all appear to have kept busy over the years, with the exception of Bill Ylitalo (Billy Litalo?), whose name I can’t find anywhere, and sounds like an alias anyway. Mars Williams went on to toot his horn with the Psychedelic Furs, and Mark Kramer would later just be known simply as Kramer, of Bongwater and Shimmy Disc fame. Here he’s credited with “noisy tape loops and some singing.” The album was produced by Hal Willner, a man possessing a long and eclectic list of credentials, among them putting together The Carl Stalling Project for Warner Bros., and a long tenure in the 80’s as music supervisor for Saturday Night Live. The latter might explain the appearance of Charles Rocket of all people on this album as a guest accordionist.
The track I’ve selected, “Ghost In Hollywood” captures their zany sound in all
its Muppety glory, and is probably the easiest listen on the album. To give you an idea what I mean, the cut just before it is entitled “Elephant Sex,” and is a series of flaccid and somewhat gross deep horn noises. See, coulda been worse.