The Arty Semite

Monday Music: Banned in Tel Aviv, Monotonix Tours Stateside

By Mordechai Shinefield

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy Monotonix

Though they hail from Tel Aviv, punk outfit Monotonix sounds like 1970s New York punk by way of Los Angeles rockabilly garage heroes like X, The Germs and Alice Bag. On their new album, the speedy half hour long “Not Yet,” lead singer Ami Shalev expectorates, clears his throat and howls through 10 fast-paced tracks. As the second track, “Everything That I See,” opens, Shalev hacks (“ooo-cha-cha”) and then croaks, “Slide my arms to shipping my faith / Shout so strong but not be afraid.” Without Shalev’s garbling Israeli-accent and bizarre syntactical delivery they’re emo lyrics. With them they’re simply surreal.

Though they formed in 2005, it wasn’t until they were banned from most Tel Aviv venues that they took their show on the road. (Monotonix is currently touring the U.S. with upcoming shows in New Orleans, Nashville and New York, among other places.) At Austin music festival South by Southwest last year, Shalev crowd surfed in a green plastic trashcan while the rest of the band decamped from the stage to play amidst the audience. Shalev has the touring band’s equivalent of war wounds; a blow he suffered to his leg at a Tel Aviv show in 2008 was exacerbated in Florida last year when he broke it stage diving.

Listen to Monotonix’s ‘Give Me More’:

What music Monotonix does release tends to be as breathless and rushed as their performances, and the band seems to favor a logorrheic approach to lyrics. The chorus on “Fun Fun Fun” is the chomping, almost psychotic bark of “fun, fun, fun,” over and over again. On the similarly titled “Try Try Try,” backed by grungy sounding guitars and drums, Shalev rapidly intones, “I try, try, try,” over and over into incoherence.

Listen to Monotonix’s ‘Before I Pass Away’:

It’s better to look elsewhere for lyricism, but there’s something very compelling about Monotonix. The misanthropy and bodily fluids aren’t new to punk rock (Iggy Pop mined that territory pretty extensively — what is there left to do after you’ve rolled around in a pool of your own blood, peanut butter and glass?), but the spectacle of seeing an Israeli band put on an insane live show almost overwhelms the music itself.

It’s hard not to speculate about the extent to which they are responding to Israeli politics, much like the Sex Pistols took on Britain. Though Monotonix are reticent about politics in interviews, they are essentially expatriates now. On the closing track, “Never Died Before,” guitarist Yonatan Gat plays a rockabilly riff that sounds like a chainsaw and Shalev howls, “I love you / I hate you,” and then, “I’ll say goodbye forever.” I don’t know that he’s singing to his birthplace, but he sounds a lot like Johnny Rotten shouting down the Queen; jubilant, furious and ultimately nihilistic.

Watch Monotonix play at South by Southwest:

The best Monotonix SXSW video ever from John Rosales on Vimeo.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Germs, Sex Pistols, South by Southwest, SXSW, Punk, Not Yet, Music, Monotonix, Mordechai Shinefield, Israeli Music, Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Ami Shalev, Alice Bag, X

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.