Uncle Brent & The NoStone – Monkey Road – EP Review
Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Uncle Brent…did you get me outta bed for this?
Or have you kept me up rockin’ for weeks?
Inquiring minds want to know!
And if that’s you, read on then…
In their 2020 return, this band is sounding just SLIGHTLY amped-up as they bring it to the beginning of their new record. “Forget U” comes out swinging for the fence and immediately succeeds in hitting a homerun with scorching hot sound with just enough of a twinge & twang of southern flavor that could have this first cut crossing over easily between the Country & Rock stations. “Forget U” instantly puts Uncle Brent & The NoStone on solid ground and gets this whole EP moving in the right direction quick. For my fellow Canadian brethren…think something along the lines of the Headstones, just not quite so damn serious…same level of energetic rock and similar straight-forward Rock vocals designed to get the people’s attention. In fact much like how a lot of people view the Headstones music here in Canada, as far as I’m told, Uncle Brent & The NoStone are a LIVE band…that’s where you’ll find them really excelling and in the environment they’re meant to be in. I’d say “Forget U” is real proof that they have that live sound you wanna get up off the couch and go see – but the way this comes out on the Monkey Road EP also confirms they’ve kinda done the impossible here as well. Somehow…Uncle Brent & The NoStone have accomplished what so many bands and artists try endlessly to capture, which is getting that live sound onto a record. You’ll listen to the majority of this EP and completely be able to visualize what it would be like to be at a show with these guys playing…and that’s gonna end up being a complete asset over time. In response to the whole ‘what are you guys like live?’ question, Uncle Brent & The NoStone will just be able to hand over a Monkey Road EP, smile, and be on their way, having answered 100%. Solid move on their part to have “Forget U” right at the very beginning – this is what you want in a gateway song…they come out gunning, full attitude on display in the music, vocals, and lyrics – and the energy never quits. You can hear Uncle Brent & The NoStone are here to play their nuts off and provide the people with the party in their speakers that they’ve been searching for in the way they storm through the opening track on the Monkey Road EP…they’re undeniably having fun, but they ain’t fucking around either, know what I mean? It’s playful…but man, absolutely everything is in the right place.
“Monkey Road” is a lot of fun and probably gets one of the best representations of what Uncle Brent & The NoStone are all about at their core when it comes to providing good times through good tunes. Here’s the thing about tunes like “Monkey Road” – maybe it’s your thing, maybe it’s not…but I honestly don’t really know if that matters when it comes to the potential reach this title-track could have. This cut is designed, built, and engineered Ford-tough and it’s ready to roll out onto the charts…it’d be impossible to deny the strength of the hooks you’ll find on “Monkey Road.” What proof do I have, you ask? How about some of that good-good firsthand knowledge for ya folks? True story – I’ve had this EP for months…and if I put a red X on my calendar for every day I’ve fallen asleep (or tried to fall asleep) with this song in my head we’d be looking at one extremely uneven game of tic-tac-toe, you follow? Love it or hate it…I honestly don’t know if any of us get the choice of removing this song from our brains once we’ve heard it…that’s how permanent this set of hooks and melody in their title-track becomes. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person out there that doesn’t understand what the meat & potatoes of Rock-based music need to have, or the fact that they’d be able to hear each of those oh-so-important ingredients included all throughout “Monkey Road” – this track has’em all from the wicked guitar tones to the punchy rhythm section, perfect grit & attitude in the lyrics, plenty of melody in the vocals, and hooks that’ll get you singin’ along by the second time you hear this tune. And then like, every night afterwards, for months and months, as I’ve already explained…consider yourselves warned – there is no doubt that “Monkey Road” is a Rock-solid tune, but this cut might also live with ya for the rest of time.
Here’s the facts…”Bullets” is a really good song. The advantage it has on this record might be the same as the potential disadvantage it has, which is how significantly different it is from those first two wildly energetic cuts from Uncle Brent & The NoStone. So on the one hand, “Bullets” immediately stands out because of its acoustic-meets-orchestral like atmosphere, sweetened vocal hooks and stunning guitar solo, and heavier theme shrouding the lyricism & vibe; on the other hand however, is one very decisive shift in the energy of this record. It’s not that you don’t see that as a potential possibility at some point – almost any album you can think of ebbs & flows one way or the other…if anything I think it’s a testament to the energy of the first two songs on the Monkey Road EP that it takes a second or two to adjust to the more low-key approach to “Bullets.” Even the production shifts uniquely in this tune…something about it makes it feel like it could have fit right in with the Mr. Big “To Be With You” era, or when Extreme was hitting it big with ballads at the beginning of the 90’s still…and then of course there’s the breakdown where Uncle Brent slightly reveals his hidden admiration for Metallica in the way he extends his vocal tones in a Hetfield-esque style. When you consider how many hits that gigantic behemoth of a band created through ballads around a similar time as well…everything kind of adds up from the influence to the vibes you’ll find in the end results. I’ll say this…personally, I think “Bullets” is probably one of the cuts that would hold up for me the longest in repeating this record over the years to come, and I’d suspect that’s a possibility for many listeners out there. “Bullets” might not end up being that first cut the people notice with the energy in the songs of this lineup surrounding it, but I have faith & confidence that listening ears will hear the creative stretch being taken on this song in sound & style and find an appreciation for the well-crafted songwriting & execution they’ll discover. You get a fully different sound than you’ve experienced from Uncle Brent & The NoStone on “Bullets” and ultimately I think the diversity will suit the band over time…songs like “Bullets” open the door for new possibilities in the future. I’d be encouraged by the results they’ve achieved here for sure…it’s not gonna be the single like “Forget U” or “Monkey Road” would be if we’re talking radio-wise…but that’s not valid form of measurement for art & music to begin with…what you want is to hear a song like this that pushes their own creativity into new directions…this kind of switch in style helps a band continually evolve over time.
The middle ground is “Her Pain” in my opinion…I think this was the exact song that started to really turn me on that first spin through the Monkey Road EP…it took me from being a guy somewhat on the outside of this genre to a dude right on the inside & relenting to what’s been a record full of great tunes. I think I can confidently say it’s got…probably my favorite lyrics, and definitely my favorite vocals from any of the songs on the record. The contrast is excellent…if you weren’t actually paying attention you’d likely assume you’re rockin’ to a song about chicks & cars…and…well…okay, in a way you ARE…but you’ll find there’s a hell of a whole lot more going on in the depth of the emotion, imagery, and feelings that run throughout this tune. Starting out delicately before hitting those distortion pedals and surging forward into the song’s biggest hooks – give Uncle Brent & The NoStone some real credit for delivering a chorus that completely hits the mark on “Her Pain.” Everything from the writing itself to the immaculate way they’ve hit the harmonies on this song stands out for all the right reasons; I’m not exactly always the ‘whoa-oh-oh’ type-guy as a listener, but when it’s done this well I sure as hell am and you bet they’ve got me singing along. In fact I really like bands like Uncle Brent & The NoStone in this gear…they’re almost like a more traditional-Rock form of a band like Weezer when they’re struttin’ like this…but there’s a much more distinctly classic Cars-esque sound at work in the vibe of the music in what you’ll hear on “Her Pain” that sets it apart. You also get that real emotional twist in the music & vocals that highlights the thread of sincerity & seriousness so often found underneath the sunshiny & fun surface of songs like “Her Pain” too. Contrast is always a successful recipe for songs that’ll last if you ask me…”Her Pain” has a ton of it, the execution is spot-on flawless, the vocals are probably the most memorable highlight & best performance you’ll hear from Uncle Brent on a record full of his best work to-date on the mic…I’m inclined to deem this cut my favorite on the Monkey Road EP for sure.
I just looked it up. It was back in 2018 that I last reviewed Uncle Brent & The NoStone’s music. Seems like a lifetime ago right now, but what on earth doesn’t lately in this weird world we’re living in? But a lifetime also in the sense of the evolution of the quality & execution of this band’s music is inarguable – this is a tighter record for sure and the production sparkles on these tunes just as much as the attitude does. “Tequila Nights” is a great, celebratory note to go out on…makes you wanna hoist one last pint in honor of a job well done really…Uncle Brent & The NoStone should be proud of how this EP came out. “Tequila Nights” isn’t that far removed from a lot of the kind of tunes that Cake creates…though of course you get a much more lively vocal performance from a singer like Uncle Brent and how into these tunes you can always hear he truly is. Maybe that’s what’s got me onboard even more-so this time around…you can really hear the passion, enthusiasm, and desire to entertain radiating from these songs. I mean…what’s the worst thing about this EP, really? Sure it might have a moment here or two that’ll remind you of another song or artist perhaps…but show me a record that doesn’t…it’s extremely rare that our minds don’t come up with some sort of comparison or feel comforted by familiarity when we hear it. So really…is that the worst thing at all? Maybe that’s actually an asset, ain’t it? Uncle Brent & The NoStone go out on a solid party-note of “Tequila Nights” and hazy memories as they piece together the details from the days before and try to figure out where they blacked out and the night truly began. I mean, if you want a relatable tune…if you’ve ever found yourself over the limit – or better yet, you’ve ever attempted to take on such a formidable beast as the tequila monster…you can practically feel the hangover that would come with so many of the details & events that Uncle Brent will sing about. Normally, I get it…that might not exactly be the selling-feature of the year to draw you in to listen…the best I can say in defense of writing that down is that I continually came back for another round…and another…and another. Uncle Brent & The NoStone tapped right into the party-vibes to create this record and they’ve done an exceptional job of making music that’s geared towards letting the good-times roll…Monkey Road is unapologetically FUN and stocked with tunes the people will wanna turn UP.
Find out more about Uncle Brent & The NoStone at their official homepage at: http://www.nostonemusicband.com
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