There are a lot of incredible scenes within the American underground, but none quite like that of Orange County, California. Home to some of the greatest stories in indie rock history, the OC has been producing talent of all shapes and sizes since the beginning, and in 2020, it brings forth three of its seasoned players in a new band called Magnet Monks encapsulating much of what has made the scene legendary. Driven by an independent spirit, raw guitar-born heat and a melodic, pop songwriting sensibility, the Magnet Monks’ Meet the Monks is a foray into a uniquely SoCal sound you’re going to want to hear before the year has expired.
You don’t have to be some sort of an expert music critic to pick up on the array of influences in play here, and in songs like “Foxhole,” “Golden Cages,” “Over Our Heads” and “Rockstar,” it’s actually a little difficult to pin down what kind of alternative rock band this group wants to be known as. This has been an era embracive of the genre-less movement that started decades ago but lost a lot of steam at the dawn of the 21st century, and in this area, Magnet Monks don’t mind following the same concept their contemporaries have turned into an outright trend.
Structurally speaking, “Wild Horses,” “Circus, “Up on the Mountain” and “Geronimo” feel a little formulaic compared the aforementioned set of songs, but the energy of the band’s performance in each of these tracks does a lot to make them feel more iconic than unintentionally ironic. In some ways, Meet the Monks gives us a litany of examples proving that the way a trio of musicians broach a project can be the deciding factor in whether or not it’s the chill-provoking masterpiece modern radio requires to get into consistent rotation, and to me, theirs is absolutely a standard-raiser for their peer group.
At times, this record feels a little bit more like a ‘Best Of’ compilation than it does a new album meant to get a new wave of fans interested in a scene and three of its most underrated players, but I really think that merely speaks to the chemistry they have and its natural quality. They’re not trying to be something from the past, nor import something out of the history books for a redressing, and from where I sit, that gives them a credibility scarcely afforded to groups in similar situations.
Magnet Monks submit an incredibly well-assembled juggernaut in Meet the Monks that does everything its name would imply it should and a touch more, and though it isn’t the only alternative rock LP that I would tell you to get out and listen to this fall, it’s undeniably one of the more jam-packed I’ve personally had the opportunity to take a peek at this October. The indie rock of yore may never return to the prominence it once knew, but with the next chapter of the story starting off as chaotically as it has in 2020, I think we can depend on bands like Magnet Monks to keep things interesting.