Gorilla Monsoon – S/T

In the last year, we as a nation have undergone great tragedy. Repeatedly seeing footage of the two ill-fated jets crash into the World Trade Center has left us feeling vulnerable, frightened, and forever changed. In the wake of this grief, some recording artists have tried to console a country still shaken by these events. Paul McCartney wrote “Freedom,” and Neil Young penned “Let’s Roll.” Bruce Springsteen even erected a long-playing monument to the victims of September 11th. Despite these efforts, the pain lingers on, prompting the question: has anyone tried making a pro-wrestling-themed hardcore album? The answer, thanks to Gorilla Monsoon, is now a resounding “I’m afraid so.”
Named after the late founder of the World Wrestling Federation, Gorilla Monsoon seems to stumble drunkenly along the line separating postmodernist irony and unadulterated stupidity without keeping track of what side they’re on. Looking down a list of song titles, however, one might be inclined at the very minimum to give the band some credit for developing a cogent idea and sticking to it. Look for the common thread running through gems like, “Weighing in at 405 lbs.,” “Submission Moves,” and “36 Man Battle Royale.” Further shoring up the possibility that Gorilla Monsoon will contain some worthwhile material is the fact that representing barbaric, violent sports with music has a respectable history that stretches back to and consists of at least Miles Davis’ A Tribute to Jack Johnson. However, once this disc starts spinning, any optimistic illusions fade away faster than Sir Mix-a-Lot. The music – a sludgy, undistinguished mass of fuzzy guitars with some drums pounding away in the background – is bad enough to suggest that Gorilla Monsoon may not be entirely sincere. In fact, this whole album has the air of a big prank being perpetrated on the world. But who cares? Other than the genuinely decent and wholly divergent “Lord Alfred Hayes,” there are no reasons to actually listen to Gorilla Monsoon. If it’s a joke, then the punch line comes long before the listener opens up the jewel case and plays the CD. Yet more damning is the fact that the joke really isn’t that funny.
Still, this kind of analysis presumes a lot. It’s at least imaginable that Gorilla Monsoon genuinely likes the music they play and the topic they celebrate on their eponymous debut. Their affection for the former would barely fall within the realm of possibility, but their love for the latter would be relatively understandable. After all, they focus on the mid-80s glory days of pro wrestling, a more idyllic and less terror-ridden time. Back then, there was no Osama-bin-Laden-like WCW to challenge the supremacy of the WWF, and the ongoing feud between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant offered the clear-cut representation of pure good and pure evil necessary for children and presidents alike. This kind of nostalgia has been translated into some truly magnetic pop music over the years, inspiring such luminaries as the Kinks, the Band, and Syd Barrett. Should you find yourself with a surfeit of bravado, you could even go so far as to say that this album is Gorilla Monsoon’s Village Green Preservation Society. But then again, I really hope to God you don’t.