The Monkees hold a unique place in the history of pop music. Initially hired as actors to play a Beatles-esque pop group on T.V, they went onto become a successful band in their own right – fairly prophetic casting. Although their first two albums were crafted by session musicians, they went on to take the reins themselves, but the dye was cast and they would forever be known as the pre-fab four.
Back with their first album without late singer Davy Jones, they’ve brought the 60s back with them. The simian school boys have enlisted the help of some of their famous fans; the likes of XTC’s Andy Partridge, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller have penned songs for the album.
Bright, Byrdsian guitars explode all over Good Times!. The lyrics evoke saccharinely sweet images of a time gone by – “I’ll bring the chips, and the dips, and root beer… When you come around, you bring the summer”. Ugh…lame. It shouldn’t work, over use of ‘and’ for a start, but it does. I defy anyone to listen to more than ten seconds of the Partridge-penned ‘You Bring the Summer’ without both legs and head being infected with bop. Cuomo’s ‘She Makes me Laugh’ is another highlight, drenched in west-coast sunshine.
It’s as if this stellar, diverse stable of writers were finally able to unleash the Monkee within. Had they recorded their submissions themselves they would feel contrived. The remaining Monkees Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith lend the songs their authenticity as well as some outstanding vocals and lavish harmonies.
Title track ‘Good Times’ was written by the band’s old friend Harry Nilsson – on which they’ve left his vocal. It chugs along like a dirty little Bo Diddley driven steam engine. Weller and Gallagher teamed up on the psychedelic ‘The Birth of an Accidental Hipster’. Reminiscent of some of Weller’s recent work it skips around, all trippy vocals, stomping drums and even a honkey-tonk piano section. Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard provides one of the albums only subdued moments in ‘Me & Magdelena’. He hasn’t succumbed to his inner chimp quite as much as other contributors, his liltingly wistful tune is imbued with a timeless beauty.
Joyous choruses. Descending basslines. Synchronized hand claps and xylophones. Lead guitar lines sounding like they’ve been torn from the fret. Short, sharp, concise pop songs. What’s not to like? This is what happiness must sound like. Audible Prozac.