Published Nov 17, 2020Dave Monks fronts Tokyo Police Club, releases solo music under his own name and plays in the CanCon supergroup Anyway Gang. If those projects are where Monks channels his serious songwriting and commercial aspirations, his work with bandcalledmax — originally known as MAX, but presumably renamed due to the incredibly famous pop star of the same name — comes across as a bit of lark. Judging by the sound of debut album Turn It Up, this is where Monks goes to blow off steam.
Turn It Up is a sock-hoppin' romp, with boogie-woogie electric guitars set to a frantic punk rhythm section. From the instrumental 12-bar blooze of the opening "Theme" (which comes complete with a skronking horn solo) to the fuzzed-out bubblegum of the Ramones-indebted "I'm Gonna See My Baby Tonight," bandcalledmax keep their songs simple and satisfying. They're having fun with retro rock conventions rather than trying to subvert them. On the chorus of closer "Rocker," Monks comes right out and says it: "I'm a rocker / I'm a rock'n'roller."
The three-piece switch things up on "Tangerine," with its nylon-string bossanova, 8-bit drum programming, and quirky lyrics that offer commentary on armchair activism ("You know I protest the best / For all the nation's oppressed / Who made the shirt on my back / Who put the screws in my Mac") alongside delightful nonsense ("All of the people unite / And vote for Pepsi or Sprite / I'm on the winning team / Tangerine"). bandcalledmax similarly slow things down for the 6/8 blues ballad "Fool" and the hornt-up serenade "Wild Horses" (featuring pleas of "I wanna go all the way with you"). But these are mostly palate cleansers to make way for the next rockin' rave-up.
Toronto fans might have seen bandcalledmax in the last couple of years during their February residencies at the Dakota Tavern. That doesn't seem particularly likely to happen in 2021, given the current state of the world, but Turn It Up should tide fans over until they can storm the stage once again. (Ghost Pepper Records)