Monocle greatly impressed with their first album ‘Outer Sunset’, which came across as the New York born child of Broadcast and Stereolab. Since then mainman Rich Bennett has released several mini albums, one an imaginary soundtrack for an imaginary 80’s cop show whilst the other two, ‘Music For Underwater Supermarkets’ and ‘On Holiday’, largely sounded like the titles suggested. Intriguing and inventive though they were, it’s refreshing to hear him placing the emphasis on song-based material for the belated second album by Monocle.
So what’s changed since the first album? For a start, Bennett has brought in Dead Leaf Echo’s Ana Breton to share vocal duties which adds a welcome contrast to Bennett’s own baritone. There’s also a commendable array of unusual instruments used in these songs. Steel drums (‘Breeze Along With Me’), surf guitar (‘Plastic Beach’) and Wurlitzer instrumentals (‘Swinger400’) all feature but in all honesty only the first of these is essential listening. Otherwise, though, classy moments are generously offered from track to track.
On the first song, ‘Snake’, the bouncy synth lines and strings usher in a great chorus, which is equal parts 1960’s easy listening and electro-pop. ‘Chances Glide’, the single, is an easy choice for a highlight; a pop song which is as much about mystery and intrigue as it is about being insanely addictive. This signals an upsurge in quality from the noirish urgency of ‘Exus’, to the moody jazz-pop ‘Inside The Gate’ and ending on a great high as a wonderfully meandering bassline takes on Stereolab-esque passages of beauty for ‘Most People Believe’.
Being hyper-critical, it’s hard not to feel a little short changed by ‘Transpacific Sound Paradise’, because at just thirty three minutes, this is a very brief album. Nevertheless, this being a Rich Bennett record, it’s a richly diverse offering with the majority of songs clearly touched by his retro-futurist pop genius.
Stereolab, Broadcast, Hotels, Rich Bennett