by Nick Hanover
Three years ago when Acey Monaro first confessed she had come undone, it came across as shellshocked, a half-question coming out of the mouth of someone emerging from bomb site wreckage. Now that same sentiment has the weariness of the chronic blues to it, less a “what do I do next?” pondering than a warning to others that coming undone is simply the natural order of the world and perhaps the blues are what happens when you know you’re better than the mediocrity that seemingly always rises to the top. So naturally, now that she’s unveiled Go Fever, a full band seemingly inspired by New Wave’s predecessor pub rock, wielding bluesy riffs and ample low end rather than instrumentation and quirky drum machines, she’s egging herself on by saying “Out with the old, in with the blues.”
So what does one do about the endless blues and those who enable it? The band’s dreamy title track suggests “The only way to shake this ennui/Is to embark on a libertine spree” and there’s an immediate delivery on that suggestion, as the innocent, ’50s aesthetic of the track swells and nearly hides Monaro’s declaration “I wanna leave a mark, at least on me.” That last bit is especially important to keep a focus on, though. Monaro’s solo EP was self-reflective, an effort to look inward through art, but with a gang of fellow libertines behind her, Monaro doesn’t hesitate to shift her focus outward and to cut down anyone attempting to get in the way of her growth.
“Small Talk” makes that clear over one of the album’s strongest instrumental offerings. As the guitars chug on, Monaro growls “If you want to give me a compliment/You better think real hard on it,” fighting back against eons of negging in rock. The track has Monaro lyrically taking on the role of the “difficult woman” so many hits complain about while the instrumentation nods to bratty rock boys ranging from Cheap Trick to The Kinks. And when the chorus arrives in all its anthemic glory, Monaro preemptively cuts vulnerable bad boys off at the knees, asking “Savez-vous que je suis folle, baby?” before they dare to suggest she’s off her rocker.
Go Fever are equally happy to explore the funner side of bad behavior, though. “United States of My Mind” comes from the Elvis Costello playbook of songcraft, packing a dizzying number of riffs and detours into its runtime as Monaro self-flagellates before ultimately suggesting it’s time to “Go make some memories/Inside this cheap hotel.” Monaro’s strong voice and lyrics are as clear as ever, but the song is equally a showcase for the rest of Monaro’s band, who rise to the occasion of being her Attractions, with Andy Bianculli’s organ playing in particular sounding like it was dialed straight in from This Year’s Model (it doesn’t hurt that Danny Reisch’s production is unapologetically ’70s in its approach). There’s something especially exciting about Monaro pillaging notorious womanizer and asshole Costello’s tricks; even Costello would have to respect the sharpness of a title like “Surprise! I Never Loved You,” and its opening refrain “Your smug smile suggests that you know/Something about the human condition/If I may speak without your permission…you don’t.”
Go Fever as an album firmly establishes that Monaro should be placed alongside titans of rock wit like Costello, but it also has no qualms ripping apart all the entitlement and condescension that kept the Monaros of the past from getting the recognition they deserve. As Monaro so eloquently puts it in “Savannah,” “Don’t let the average impede you,” no matter how overwhelming mediocrity might be. Those blues that came in with the departure of the old might never go away, but Go Fever can at least take solace in the fact that they couldn’t be further from average.
Go Fever play Friday, April 14th at Barracuda as part of the Slack Capital 2 Release Party.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover