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The Monolators' Top Ten of 2008

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Photo by Koga for LAist

December is list-making season. And for us music journalists, it is a time to look back on scores of albums, reflect upon the music and recapitulate our favorites. But this year, just like the last, we took this opportunity to flip that tradition upside down, asking the artists that influenced us what influenced them. The prompt was not limited to albums that came out in 2008.

Eli of the Monolators

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1. "With Luv'" by, natch, Luv'. Luv' was a manufactured girl group from the Netherlands circa late 1970's, basically an attempt to cash in on ABBA's success. There's three of them, all girls, and they all have different personas: there's the one who can sing, there's the "exotic" one, and there's the blonde one. Like Charlie's Angels. The thing is, though, the this record is REALLY REALLY GOOD. I highly recommend watching their videos on youtube. For example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHllh7J-g2o

or this one, with bagpipes and marching smurfs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUd0XKUigW4

We love their "Shoes Off, Boots On" song (which sadly was a single and is not on this album, as good as it is) so much that we cover it in our other band, Cobra Lilies.

The Monolators - "I Must Be Dreaming"

2. "Dolly Dots Greatest Hits" by Dolly Dots. I see a pattern here: yet another manufactued girl group from the Netherlands, of slightly later vinatge than Luv', and there's more of them (like 8, I think?). They have more of an early '80's perky sound than ABBA, but they've got some good songs, and, surprise surprise, Cobra Lilies covers their "Roller Skating" song, which is about going to a roller disco!

Watch for one of them wiping out at 00:17:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FrC9Ov-uvY

3. "Arrival" by ABBA. Actually I also love the earlier "limo" album, but "Arrival" is genius all the way through. After laughing at ABBA for years I saw "ABBA: The Movie," about their tour of Australia in '77, and it CHANGED MY LIFE. "Arrival" has "Dancing Queen" but my favorite track is "Tiger," and the shrieking ending ("tiger tiger TIGERRRRRRR!") is the best ending for a pop song of all time, ever.

4. "Sweet Revenge" by Amanda Lear. This is a disco concept album from, I think, '77 about a woman who sells her soul to the devil but then wins it back again. The entire first side is one long 18-minute medley on this subject, and covers seduction, greed, remorse, and escape. And gongs. Lots and lots of gongs. It's profound, dammit! Side two is way more campy/less awesome, with "Stud" being the low point ("he's a fifty-dollar, leather-trousered STUD!") but the cd version tacks on a single called "Chinatown" with, uh, more gongs. Great track.

There is some debate on what Ms. Lear's original gender is/was. She has a very loooowwww voice (Mary could not believe it wasn't a man singing when she first heard it) and doesn't so much sing as speak the lyrics. I think most people assume she started off male--but, she was also engaged to Bryan Ferry at one point (not that this means anything), appeared in Playboy, and insists in interviews she was not a he. So who knows. You may have seen her as the cover model for the second Roxy Music record (the one with the panther).

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5. Speaking of Roxy Music, "Country Life" got a lot of play this year. I know it's not as cool as the first, self-titled album, but it's got "All I Want Is You" and I love that song. Actually my favorite Roxy Music song at the moment might be "Pyjamarama."

6. Mary has been listening to the new Bjork record a lot. We saw her at the Nokia theater and it was pretty dang impressive. Mary is also a devoted Madge fan but she "doesn't know how she feels about the new record, as compared to 'Confessions On The Dance Floor.'" I leave that to posteriry to decide (I think it's pretty godawful, personally).

7. Not actually an album but an EP: "The Sisters" by Pulp. This was released right before the "Different Class" album. It's the one that has "Babies" on it but I like the other tracks on it better (especially "Your Sister's Clothes" and "Seconds"). I am also currently obsessed with the "O.U." single, of which I'm trying to locate a vinyl copy.

8. "Here At Last: The Bee Gees...Live." We got this in a little record store in East Lansing, Michigan earlier this year. I didn't know much about the Bee Gees beyond "Saturday Night Fever" but this has really solid live versions of songs from the "Main Course" album, which is now my favorite period of theirs. It's got "Winds Of Change," "Nights On Broadway," and "Jive Talking" all in a row. BAM! Of course "Main Course" does too, but...um...this one's live! And it was recorded in Los Angeles.

Tom, our guitar player, prefers the earlier, beatles-psychedelic-pop Bee Gees period--but I still like their disco stuff best.

9. "History Of Sparks" by Sparks--it's a retrospective collection of their stuff that came out sometime in the early '80's. I knew Sparks from their great "Kimono My House" LP but this introduced me to their later, synthy music, which I gather is dismissed as inferior but I adore. This has "Tryouts For The Human Race" and "Funny Face," which I tend to play over and over and over and over again...

10. A non-disco entry, and okay, one that didn't actually impact Monolators at all, but rather Cobra Lilies: "King Of Skiffle" by Lonnie Donegan. This is a greatest-hits collection from a guy that was big in the UK in the mid-50's--sort of predating rock and roll, but his music, skiffle, has a lot of the same feel to it as early rock and roll. Lonnie took American folk songs by Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie and those types of guys and stuck on drums, bass, and lead guitar. He looks like a doofus but his delivery is impassioned and awe-inspiring. "Jack O' Diamonds" is one of my all-time favorite songs:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GynnhBUOHkg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O4qkHMv678

One of my friends saw this and said "they're fierce, these guys." Yep.

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LAist's Koga shot the hell out of them this past year.