Just to make one thing clear before we get into this too deeply: I Monster are clearly certifiably insane. That’s pretty obvious from the intro to Some Thing’s Coming, in which a crowing cockerel gets hit on the head with a frying pan. Conventional really isn’t in their vocabulary.
When they get going, though, they really are rather good – inventive, clever, and very unusual, but also extremely good – Some Thing’s Coming turns out to be a great song, with a slightly grimy bass part and a rhythm that reminds you of the 1970s. Then the brilliant Daydream in Blue, their one and only hit single, in which they heavily channel Air, but do it so cleverly that you can hardly blame them.
I Monster had first appeared in the late 1990s, initially on a series of underground Sheffield compilations, and by the turn of the millennium had already released their debut, the now ultra-rare These Are Our Children (not to be confused with the track of the same name – more on that later).
Neveroddoreven first came out in 2003, fifteen years ago this week, with a very different track listing, although broadly the same collection of tracks – for the purposes of this review, we’ve stuck to the better-known 2004 reissue, but even that hides some secrets – rewind from the start of the first track on a compatible CD player, and you’ll find Cells hidden at the beginning, and Lucifer You Are a Devil at the end.
So next comes the Glamour Puss mix of single Hey Mrs., a glorious glam piece which should really have hit the top of the charts. As with most of the album, it is a bit unconventional, to say the least, but it’s also fantastic on every level. Then Everyone’s a Loser is a glorious song about the life of awkward people.
On any other album, by this stage, you would expect to find something a bit conventional, but here, even that is exceptional – I think the slower and more subdued Heaven might be my favourite track on here, and then Who is She? is entirely exceptional. Drawing heavily from a 1968 track called The Vengeance of She (Who Is She?) it comes together brilliantly.
Even the filler tracks are great – the short interlude A Scarecrow’s Tale is delightfully rustic, and carries us through to the curious electro-didgeridoo-blues of Stobart’s Blues. This is, for the first time, a slightly weaker track, but given the overall standard of this album, that was inevitable, and it’s hardly a bad thing. So, in fact, is The Backseat of My Car, now remodelled as Sticky Black Vinyl Mix, which somehow, while perfectly good, doesn’t quite seem to work.
But then we’re back to the perfection again – the song These Are Our Children (not, as I said earlier, to be confused with the album), is a beautifully dark ragga piece with children’s vocals. Then the more subdued Sunny Delights makes a late entry, full of sweet flutes and growling synthesisers.
Right at the end, you get the long version of The Blue Wrath, the daft jazzy piece that originally appeared in Shaun of the Dead. It’s a great closer for this album – completely ridiculous, of course, but also a lot of fun, and musically brilliant too.
So Neveroddoreven, with its palindromic title, is an exceptional album, however you look at it – and there’s a good chance that even if you know it already, you probably don’t know the hidden extra tracks quite as well. Well worth owning on CD, if you don’t already.
You can still find Neveroddoreven at all major retailers.