Mono – You are There

You are There

Why is everyone always hating on Mono? Look at a few of the reviews for the Japanese post-rockers’ last album Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and Sun Shined and you’ll find nothing but reviewers spewing forth the most vile contempt for the band. Even our own DOA hated on that record, although it made my own personal top-ten albums of 2004. So how come Mono gets such different treatment than labelmates Explosions in the Sky, who get a royal ass kissing from most indie media outlets?

Let’s do a sort of side-by-side comparison. Explosions in the Sky is an instrumental post-rock group from Texas. Mono is an instrumental post-rock group from Japan. Both groups call Temporary Residence Ltd. home. Explosions in the Sky apes Mogwai’s Young Team on Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die and then covers the same ground Mogwai covered on Come on Die Young on the band’s own second LP The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place. While Explosions was busy ripping off early Mogwai to the delight of rock critics everywhere, Mono was being touted by John Zorn on his Tzadik label. Sure Mono also engaged in a little Mogwai worship on One Step More and You Die, but the band was also smart enough to switch gears and actually produce a third LP while Explosions in the Sky has tinkered around unsuccessfully with soundtrack work for football movies (Friday Night Lights).

For two bands that have so much in common, it seems that Explosions in the Sky is the favored son while Mono seems to be the black sheep of the family. Mono has even been accused of making “by-the-numbers post-rock.” I wish I could tell you that with You are There that all of that is about to change, but I have a feeling that this record will only inspire even more poor reviews for the band. Too bad for those critics who easily dismiss Mono, as You are There is a fine example of post-rock that outshines both Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s latest or last affairs.

On album number four, Mono mixes the loud/soft dynamic so common to the genre with Ennio Morricone-style spaghetti western drama ala The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Gorgeous string sections wind around taut and heavy drumming that is far more crushing than anything you’ll find on Mr. Beast. While Explosions in the Sky cowers somewhere trying to imagine a decent follow up to that lovable last album, Mono captures the essence of what makes instrumental music so great and synthesizes it into six tracks of powerful rock.