The Drunk Monkeys take a journey through self awareness and personal growth in their self-titled debut.

On the cover of The Drunk Monkeys’ self-titled debut LP, a young boy looks towards a path that plunges deep into a psychedelic chaos of branches and colorful leaves. As the boy on the cover seems to hesitate before beginning his journey, frontman Joe Froeber opens the first track, “Swathe,” with the lyrics, “When I was a boy, my heart was full, my mind was empty and free / With age came the travesty of a full mind and an empty heart.” These lyrics suggest a loss of innocence, an ability to hurt others, and the painful self-awareness of both that comes from growing older.

The lyrical motif of a journey into this pain is repeated consistently throughout the album. It is most notable in “Always Wasted,” which depicts the perspectives of a young boy, a teenager, and an adult all dealing with a problem of their own. Though each verse is followed by a chorus that repeats “I’ll be just fine,” each characters’ belief in that statement dwindles the older they are.

 

 

This theme of self-awareness is incredibly important to the album, as it spends most of its time exploring the guilt that comes with heartbreak, particularly in the song “Feelin.” On this track, Froeber admits to being able to feel a past lover’s hate and unwillingness to forgive him for his mistreatment of her despite his continued love and realization of his mistakes.

Musically, the journey motif becomes more apparent as the album’s sound moves from a blend of modern psychedelic guitar vibes and trumpet and saxophone licks, similar to those found in jazz-reggae fusions, into a harder and more raw rock sound. The tracks “Naked” and “Maw” in particular offer heavily distorted guitars and louder drum beats.

It is in “Maw” that the album’s emotional lyrical climax parallels the music itself, where Froeber’s frustration at his situation resigns itself to a chorus that states, “Oh my stars look at the beauty in you / All my flaws you let them into / Oh I know you’re moving on, so it goes farewell, so long.”

This harder sound, however, is not something that lasts, as “Maw” and “Naked” are bookended by “Agni,” an instrumental piece that brings the music back down to the softer level of the beginning of the album. It’s an interlude that works well as a quiet processing of “Maw”’s emotional outburst that keeps the journey moving.

The lone journey theme might explain why seven out of the album’s ten tracks stick to a very similar formula in which a single guitar, playing a repetitive riff, precedes all other instrumentation and is then joined by the rest of the band a few bars in. It’s a formula that fits well thematically and also helps to produce a highly appealing sound for each individual song.

The album’s closing lyrics in the final song “Atlantis” provide a more literal connection between the cover’s silvicolous visuals and the album’s themes through lyrics that cleverly state, “So I keep reaching for the sunbeams of your love through the gnarled branches above.” Here, Froeber seems to have resigned himself to an understanding that he must live with his regrets, despite his longing for childlike innocence and a true belief in his ultimate ability to “be just fine.”

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