After Mania Regressia and High Words, Tel Aviv's grandfathers of punk are back to present their latest album Catastrophic Life. Grandfathers of punk?! Not all band members will agree. In fact, several talented young bloods joined the ranks of the Jewish Monkeys over the past years, flashing polyphonic brass and shredding guitar riffs to keep the old guys on their heels. The ten new album tracks were all written by the band itself and see the expedition venturing into unfamiliar territory. Judging by their previous two albums, we were well aware that popular shtetl tunes blended well with ska rhythms.This time however, they up the dosage, adding afrobeat, reggae and funk licks, Caribbean flair, wild guitars as well as a pinch of Balkan sauce to the driving mix. While their biting, satirical verses are quick to rub salt in the wound, the Monkeys are equally prone to address their own inadequacies as they come to terms with old age, impotence,
lying politicians and the incessantly rising temperatures on planet earth. Social criticism is simply part of the game as is Jewish humour and a knack for emphasizing one's personal shortcomings: Indeed, it is a "Catastrophic Life" for all those hopelessly married forever, claims a song from the album, but there's always hope. For "All the Great Things" always happen when you're least expecting them and in the end, it's all just one "Grand Bazar", a grand mix of cultures and neuralgic points. We're living in a "Robot Age" as submissive victims to the algorithms. We'd be hopelessly lost, were it not for the one they call "My Jewish Girl". And finally, "Punkfurt" takes things back to the city, where it all began: Frankfurt. It was there that the adventure started, their second home and the city the Jewish Monkeys will always hold dear to their heart. One of their notorious performances was even documented by German public television (ARD).
During their regular tours of Germany, the Jewish Monkeys were readily welcomed by audiences who showed great interest in their musical potpourri of Eastern European descent. Let's not ignore the fact that German audiences in particular have a lot to swallow, when faced with the band's relentlessly open-minded and provocative lyrics, but usually break into relieved laughter just moments later. German Hi-Fi magazine AUDIO put it this way: "The Jewish Monkeys demand listeners leave their sentiments at the door. This Tel Aviv-based outfit employs an aggressive mix of cabaret, circus marches, Frank Zappa-ish horseplay and klezmer punk to shock its audiences; Jews and Gentiles alike!" Tel Aviv's scandalous Jewish Monkeys reinvented themselves several times over the course of their career: Their 2014-released debut album Mania Regressia was characterised by their brand of klezmer punk rock. This included cover versions of obscure 1930s and 1950s songs, which the band transformed into popular hits with shameless Groucho Marx-style lyrics, newly interpreted tunes from the Yiddish songbook, both frivolous and sociocritical, as well as their own fantastic tracks like "So Nice" or "Heat, Meat, Beautiful Feet", wonderfully cynical and utterly conscious of the absurdity of being. Their sophomore album High Words (2017) further explored their uninhibited sense of existence, manifesting not just their love for breaking all sorts of ethnic and religious taboos, but also their trademark self-effacing humour. What began in the studio, soon took over the main stages at major festivals, obsessively encouraging people of all races and religions to keep on smiling and leave it all on the dancefloor (causing the occasional fainting spell). The Jewish Monkeys have played clubs, theatres and festivals and even brought Syrian refugees to their feet at a Dresden transit camp, only to perform at an anti-Pegida demonstration the very next day. As heard on German national radio (Deutschlandfunk Corso): "They're not political, but they do love satire and ridicule anything that comes their way. They race through their uptempo songs with reckless and forceful abandon, then bask in the glow of their corny ballads."
In a piece for the German weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung journalist Maxim Biller once described the band's music as follows: "Had Hitler not almost won the war, this is what Jewish pop music would sound like: naturally stoned, fast and incredibly melancholy." It's a fitting summary of a band that is unlike any other, even in Israel. Where else would you find Yiddish folk with a Balkan tinge and a healthy dose of ska, reggae and afrobeat, running on indie rock energy?