Do Look Back | Velvet Monkeys: Everything Is Right
In the early 1980s, post-punk was already taking the still-young punk rock scene in different directions. With cheaper recording and advances in media, the DIY spirit, which would reach great heights into the 1990s, began allowing bands to take recording and distribution into their own hands. This led to thousands of amazing releases that didn’t make it beyond limited releases that might never resurface again and be lost to the past. While the Velvet Monkeys never hit any success, Everything Is Right is a great and formerly lost document of a burgeoning scene. While their name was supposedly an amalgamation of The Velvet Underground and The Monkees, the Velvet Monkeys fit squarely in the already growing post-punk scene of the early 1980s. Style-wise, the Velvet Monkeys fit into more of the lurching pop of the Feelies and similar bands while sometimes taking a detour into the drum machine and synth world. Previously living an almost forgotten life as a cassette-only release, the reissue of Everything Is Right puts the whole thing on CD for the first time and adds 3 live tracks at the end.
The opening title track is as good of an introduction as we need to the Monkeys, a jerky slice of post-punk featuring pounding drums and organ anchoring Fleming’s guitar and vocals to the track. “Everything Is Right” takes the basic sound that the Modern Lovers pioneered and adds Fleming’s noisier guitar playing into the mix. Keyboardist Elaine Barnes takes the vocal lead a few times on the album, the first being “Shadow Box,” which takes the band into an almost Joy Division-type song. “The Creeper” shows off the band’s more humorous side with a drum anchoring a lo-fi run through the Ventures cover, while the later “Velvet Monkeys” seems to be the band’s attempt at The Monkee’s theme song. The band sometimes pulls into a few directions of what will become the more popular post-punk styles of the next years, the almost dancey “Any Day Now” and the dark keyboard-driven “Favorite Day”. A live recording, “True Believers,” closes out the proper album with a much rawer sound than the rest of the album, sounding the closest the band gets to punk rock. The standout of the additional live tracks is “Favorite Day”, which turns the keyboard and drum machine song into a much more raw guitar-driven song with live drums.
The Velvet Monkeys later went on to a few more albums, a partnership with underground heroes Half Japanese and eventually broke up in the late 80s. Fleming and Jay Spiegel went on to form Gumball after the band’s demise, who you might remember from Sonic Youth’s tour film “The Year That Punk Broke” before Fleming’s successful career as a producer.
There are many lost treasures in the 1980’s DIY world; thankfully, Everything Is Right deserves rediscovery.
Writer / photographer / Reviler co-founder