MONDAY, MAY 11, 2015|
Posted by: Don Saas
I remember the first time I heard "Little Talks" in 2012 with the sort of clarity generally reserved for the surrounding waters of Italian isles in the Mediterranean (or the Adriatic; I can never quite remember which sea Capri calls home). It's probably only my fourth or fifth favorite song on My Head Is An Animal but it was my introduction to Of Monsters and Men (as I'm sure it was for a lot of people), and although I reviewed that record for this site three years ago, I've barely stopped playing it since.
That's not to say that I'm some sort of Of Monsters and Men superfan (that's my sister who counts them among her favorite bands working today) but the brand's communal folk-pop grandiosity has always spoken to my inner Arcade Fire fan in the same way that their American contemporaries Milo Greene have. Their mixture of rustic, European fantasy, arena-ready sing-alongs, and warm multi-instrumental melodies is otherworldly folk comfort food and for their millions of fans around the world, it was a sound without immediate forebears (though Arcade Fire is still the clear influence if you listen close enough).
Of Monsters and Men will be releasing their sophomore record, Beneath the Skin, on June 9th, and they stopped in at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC last Thursday to promote the new record. I've heard the new album, and as far as I know, there's no embargo to keep me from saying that it's very good. I suspect the...bigness of the new album's sound may turn some folks off. Beneath the Skin is Of Monster and Men's Achtung Baby. But it's a natural extension of the band's arena folk-rock roots (a genre they've nearly single-handedly helped to popularize alongside Mumford & Sons). It's a natural extension, and that Nordic charm and energy was not only on display on the new album but for their performance Thursday night.
Whether they were playing classic tracks like "Dirty Paws," "Mountain Sound," or "King and Lionheart" or new singles like "Crystals" and "Eye of the Storm," Of Monsters and Men know exactly what their sound is and the new singles showcase the ability for that new sound to grow and evolve. Of Monsters and Men are six months away from not only being one of the most popular alternative bands on the planet. They're six months away from being legitimate mainstream rock stars, and they achieved that Thursday night without sacrificing the charm that made us fall in love with them four years ago. When they played "Little Talks" as the penultimate track of their encore, the audience erupted and I remembered why the band had grown to mean so much to so many in such a short period of time.
I wish I could say such nice things about the crowd at the Hammerstein. I've been to a lot of shows and minus some rowdier festival crowds, I've never seen an audience that I loathed more than the one at the Of Monsters & Men show Friday night. A negative side-effect of having radio hits like Of Monsters & Men have is that people show up who just know the radio singles. And between the drunks, the people rolling face on Molly, and all of the chatter between and during songs, I wanted to leave a show that I was otherwise enjoying. Had Of Monsters & Men not been their usual talented and charming selves, I probably wouldn't have stayed for the whole set. Hopefully, the next time Of Monsters and Men come to town, they play at a venue where more respectful music-goers attend and not the Bridge & Tunnel crowd that was in attendance Thursday night.