Review: Jukebox Monkey ‘Smiles Becoming Teeth’

Being based on the south coast of the UK, I have extensively over the last decade, had the opportunity to witness a huge number of bands play live, both in Kent, and Sussex, and many in London too. In all this time, there is one thing I have noticed multiple times, and of all the things to pick up on, it has been the number of stickers for the band Jukebox Monkey that are dotted about. Mostly, on toilet walls, and signposts, and yes, even local to home, I’ve seen them in the most random of places. The artwork is a simple image, but once seen, you would not believe the number of times I’ve spotted them about now.

Jukebox Monkey 'Smiles Becoming Teeth' Artwork
Jukebox Monkey ‘Smiles Becoming Teeth’ Artwork

Such is the power of stickers. Yes, stickers. It is that which has sparked an awareness of the band, but I’ve never been to any of their gigs, and I never took the plunge to try them out until their latest album came up for review. Obviously, it was an opportunity too good to miss, so I signed up and took a gamble on Smiles Becoming Teeth, by the aforementioned Jukebox Monkey.

So, without any further hesitation, I will share with you my findings, and thoughts on this eight track offering from the Kent/Norwich based trio, which is out imminently.

Right from the beginning of album opener, and title track, Smiles Becoming Teeth, there’s a sense of familiarity with the sound. I’m instantly pulled towards a very eclectic British alternative ‘90s band’s sound. Conjuring up images of both Therapy? And The Almighty in my mind, I feel like it’s a sound I’ve heard before. Not as gritty hard rock as early The Almighty, but more so later into the ‘90s, that punk rock incarnation, the Crank era perhaps. It also reminds me of the same era Therapy? too. Not so much the real early Therapy? but more that Troublegum and Infernal Love time period.

It is hard edged, without being cliché. It isn’t ‘metal’, as much as it is alternative rock, and as it plays through, the quality of musicianship really shines through. It doesn’t feel like it has copied a style, but more a case of having captured a feeling. Chris Dabner’s vocals are super cool, and clear throughout, so understanding the lyrics is never a problem, while Peter Nightingale on drums and Niki Jones on bass bolster up the backline, it really is a powerhouse of sound.

The track Smiles Becoming Teeth is a real snapshot of just what the band are capable of, and right across the whole album, the feeling is ever present throughout. At times quite reflective, and at others anthemic and bombastic, the band manage to capture the very essence of what hard rock really is. The parallel in highs and lows hits at that dynamic most bands strive for, and the outcome is something which is both not too chart friendly, yet at the same time, edgy enough that it will leave you feeling like a rock and roll outsider, long after the album finishes.

At times quite reflective, and at others anthemic and bombastic, the band manage to capture the very essence of what hard rock really is…

One of my favourite tracks on the whole album is Fountainhead, and while it is the shortest, it has the most instantaneous impact. It is a tad more abrasive in its nature but is thoroughly engaging. Again, its tracks such as this which really propel me to those ‘90s comparisons, but not in any sort of a bad way. This has a real urgency to it, while hitting at those anthemic vibes.

Another track I feel compelled to mention is Deathbed Convert. Again, darker in tone and mood, this one really has something unique about it. When it’s hard, it’s abrasive, and yet on slower moments, it has a dark ambience which is intoxicating.

By the time the album’s final track, Something Meaningless, rolls around, there is little doubt left as to the nature of this band. Firmly embracing the sound they are aiming for, they have a real mastery of what they are trying to achieve. Considering they have only one previous full-length and a couple of EPs, it’s a real testament to just how proficient they all are musically. This sound could have been generated in the ‘90s for sure, but in a time when the whole world seems to be doing cover versions and reliving the sounds of bygone eras, here is a band who manage to encapsulate that period sonically, whether that is intentional or not.

Jukebox Monkey are a band who, while having quite the eclectic sound, aren’t bringing out anything utterly unique and unheard of before, but are, instead, creating an honest sound that a great many of us will embrace. Like I said right at the start, they propel me back to those sounds of the ’90s, but in the best way possible, and it’s like having an old friend come round with new stories. I really enjoyed this album, and hopefully now have added yet another band to my ‘must see live’ list too.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish