By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
For a full year now, we have toiled under the reign of local punk legends the Soviettes, and though their rule as winners of last year's Picked to Click poll has been just and kind, the time for upheaval has come. We have grown weary of the Cold War-nostalgic fonts, the insanely catchy tunes, the semi-clever headlines ("Soviettes Leave Other Punk Bands Red With Envy," Star Tribune). These are trying days, and once again we desire brooding boys with loud guitars, a band of our own to compare to Spiritualized and Mercury Rev. We crave creative hairstyles and haunting melodies. We yearn for the return of heartfelt vocals, ironic disco balls, and Guided By Voices covers. The masses have spoken, and the bells toll for thee, Monarques.
And so we ask you, Monarques, are you good? Are you, as so many have claimed, indeed the very best?
"We don't know," shrugs singer and guitarist Nathan Grumdahl, downing beers in the band's van with apt rock-boy disinterest. "Whaddya mean, good?"
You dismiss us, gentle rulers, but in your malted wisdom, you may have staggered upon a fine point: What is goodness? What does a good band do? Do they learn to smoke while strumming, to spin on beat, to tap their feet the right way (with the heels, not with the toes)? Surely the best new band in town goes beyond that: They help ladies, preferably little old ones, cross the street; they feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, inspire the hopeless. They give us their all, and when the charitable daylight hours are spent, they give us a beat, to which we listeners might shake our miserable asses, clink our empty beer glasses, and scan the bobbing heads in the crowd for another sweaty sinner to bring home. They are Boy Scouts. They are nuns. They are rock stars.
"Um, sure. Okay."
No one is convinced.
Still, before their statues are cast and their portraits paraded through the streets, I'd at least like to know that Monarques are better than average. So a few Sundays ago, I planned to test their mettle by bringing them to a nursing home, letting them serve tea and maybe entertain the populace with a song or two from their less callous repertoire. That morning, however, before meeting the band at a quiet coffee shop in the warehouse district, I receive word that there is a hitch.
"The nursing home won't allow volunteers into their building until they're tested for tuberculosis," I inform them.
"I'm clean!" declares Jeff Brown, the drummer. "I used to work with monkeys at the V.A. We were tested every six months."
The rest of the band looks at him. "Uh, what did you do with the monkeys?" asks Trenton Raygor, the bassist.
"Lots of stuff. Cleaned 'em. It was a great job."
Brown's bandmates nod. They all agree that, although none of the other members have worked with monkeys, they probably do not have tuberculosis.
"They also need to do a criminal background check," I add. This, the boys are not so fond of.
"I think I'm wanted for something in Florida," confesses a smiling Raygor, who is very tall, very thin, and therefore looks very guilty of something or other.
A new plan is needed.
"We could walk strippers to their cars," suggests Brown. "That would be good."
The band chatters in agreement: "Strippers, yeah, that would be very good." We leave the coffee shop and walk down the street to Déjà Vu. Resting against the strip club's way-too-pink wall, we wait for our distressed damsels to emerge. There is no one on the sidewalk, no cars in the street. There aren't even birds in the sky. Minutes tick by. We begin to think that perhaps Sunday afternoon is not peak stripper-escorting time.
Scanning the empty sidewalks that surround us, we search for another way to help this town. There must be some dirt that needs sweeping, some sin that needs absolving. And then we see it--the neon sign, flashing. "Open 24 Hours."
"Let's go piss on Sex World!" shouts Raygor.
"Yeah," agrees Matthew Rezac, the keyboardist. "Or we could spray paint it. That would be good."
"No!" I scold. Strippers, okay, that's one thing, but public urination and vandalism? These are not the goodly deeds of the band who will lead our humble town to the heights of fame as we were promised. These are the foul dealings of common hoodlums! What kind of Monarques are these?
"Hey, there's a big pile of garbage," Raygor notes. He points across the street at a big pile, splayed out along the length of some old warehouse, of what can only be described as rubble--twisted steel, broken concrete, rebar, a big metal umbrella-shaped thing, some buckets of rocks. The band bounds toward it gleefully, not as if they mean to clean the garbage, but rather as if they're going to play in it, like jumping in a pile of leaves. Grumdahl reaches the sidewalk first and grabs a bucket. It's heavy--it is filled with rocks, after all--so he drops it, opting instead to pick up a small chunk of scrap iron. The rest of the band follows suit, then they look for a Dumpster. There's nothing around.
"This sucks," says Brown. "This thing's got bird shit all over it." He throws his trash back onto the ground. The rest of the group resign themselves to the curb. Amidst all of this clumsy do-gooding, something is becoming very clear: The Monarques are very bad at being good.
Grumdahl looks up at me. "I'll level with you," he says. "I'm a pastor's kid. My whole life has been about being bad and getting away with it. Being good just doesn't come naturally to me."
And that's when it hits me. These Monarques were not sent to us from the heavens to cast light into the dirty shadows of our music scene. There is no divine right when it comes to rock 'n' roll. These kings are the same as we are--they're plebes, dorks even (albeit handsome dorks) who rose from humble beginnings to rule us as only a band of the people can. They're no better than us morally, they're just in a much better band--and for that, we love them. So throw down your rubble and rejoice, Monarques, for there is no need to further prove your goodness. You are the best.
"Now you're talkin'," says Grumdahl, dragging me into their nearby van. "Now let's shotgun some beers and hit the booths at Sex World."
Oh, this is not good.