What’s more psychedelic than California? With San Francisco being the multicolored fractalizing centre. The sun, the sea, and the soul. Beginning as an amalgamation of three bands in 2005 in the North Bay music scene . Monophonic’s mind-bending tones, with dashes of classic Motown, has…..soared seems the wrong verb for these deeply relaxed fellas, so maybe stretched out across the world.
Promoting their new album Sage Motel the group return to London. “Are you ready for us England?” calls out lead singer and keyboard player Kelly Finnigan. We sure are Kelly, ready indeed.
Rosa Cecilia cuts the ribbon of the evening. Looking like a very stylish pirate her white shirt and crown of curls are lit artistically from behind. The stripped-back neo-soul and jazzy smooth-voiced soloist calls out the ladies and the femmes with progressive themes, working in some interesting use of Spanish. A divine singer if a slightly underplayed stage presence.
Done and dusted, on comes the yanks. 6 of them no less. The focal point is undoubtedly Finnigan our deeply enigmatic frontman. His impressive energy is even more striking considering he is sat down for 90% of the evening, thrashing at the keys and working up quite the sweat. More Stevie Wonder vibes than the theatricality of Elton John’s flips and kicks.
Deeply cool as only Americans of the west coast variety can be, the whole affair has the air of chill with a little c. Starting with Suffocating (the songs name, thankfully) highlighting Finnigan’s expressive vocals to their utmost, the repeated chorus is infused with heartbreaking desperation. Ryan Scott provides whammy with his trumpet and the all-important wa wa wa from Ian McDonald’s guitar brings the hallucinogenic air. Like listening to the band underwater or after dropping something that rhymes with placid.
Their new single Love You Better shows what this band does well, grafting an old sound of say The Four Tops with a psychotomimetic spin. Although sadly the lack of the three female backing singers on the recorded single are missed in the live version.
It’s Only Us brings us back down to the ground, slow and sultry strumming guitars and echoing riffs and soft backing vocals from McDonald and Myles O’Mahony (also playing bass).
Warpaint another single from the album breaks up the calm and gets us the closest to a frenzy we are going to get this evening. A bumping building song of self-determination.
In your Brain from the album 2012 of the same name is sent across the churning sea to Finnigan’s love in the US, as a pink wash hit home the deeply romantic nature of the lyrics.
The encore brings out slight cracks in their polished CA charm. The choice of setlist means that the energy levels are rocketing up and down in a rather random pattern. The last song, Last One Standing doesn’t deliver the needed punch to send us reeling into the night. Although a nice mention of getting to know your family better in lockdown is appropriately topical but still the evening rather fizzles out.
Despite amazing musical talent and an impressive singing voice, Finnigan’s articulation means that a lot of the gifted writing is lost. The band’s sound doesn’t necessarily jump out as being incredibly distinct, merely being a blend of other artists, see Daniel Merriweather with a dash of Black Pumas. Overall, this pleasant bask in the beaming sun of California is an enjoyable if not vital experience.
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