Monikers - Wake Up (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Wake Up (2008)

Kiss of Death

Having found Monikers' 2006 EP Eat Your Young very decent (read: promising -- it was their first release), one hopes they would have stepped it up considerably for the full-length effort. It's a little disappointing to say that I largely feel the same way about Wake Up, but at least the band (fronted by former Discount guitarist Ryan Seagrist) have stuck to their formula, that of which is mostly mid-to-uptempo, raspy-voiced punk rock directly in the Lawrence Arms / Jawbreaker vein.

Where do the faults lay with the album? Maybe it's a general passive feeling that clouds much of the album in only mildly effective ways. See "Absentees," with its attention-grabbing riff and a general pacing that should elicit approving head-bobs from listeners -- but in all likelihood, little else. Everyone knows Jawbreaker worked wonders with this sort of restraint for years, but Monikers have yet to really capture such a feeling's full potential. Maybe if some of those lines in "Papers" were delivered with a little more emphasis I could see it really being a serious banger.

It could also be the production, which lacks a real punch. There isn't much dynamism to the recording, which doesn't help when Wake Up has a rather straightforward and static sound. Even when they pick up the pace, like in "Settlement," "Line Up" and "What Doesn't Kill You," something's amiss. Things are muffled just enough to stifle the energy and it's sort of frustrating. "Line Up" sounds like it could be a mid-album standout but Seagrist's vocals seem lost in the mix and the emotion is consequently repressed.

But what sustains Wake Up? The fact that the band knows the ins and outs of a proper dirty punk rock song. If you don't get the hook of opener "80 Proof" nuzzling in your brain after the first listen or two, I don't even know what to say. At the very least, the three-chord rocker "What Doesn't Kill You" should put a lift in your heel.

I realize I've seemed to focus much more on the album's pitfalls and less its positives here. Monkiers have heart; I just wish they'd show it more. But for all of Wake Up's lack of showcasing their true potential, it's a damn decent debut, a relaxing, warm bath in guitar distortion with its fair share of gravelly ambling and ear-catching riffs to keep attention afloat.

Wake Up at the band's profile page