It seems that 2016 is hell-bent on taking some of our most cherished stars, and slowly consigning them, and the period in which they represent, into the history books. Cue The Monkees, and an album dripping in typical optimism and 60’s nostalgia, proving they haven’t lost their edge after losing their own cherished member, Davy Jones, in 2012. It is quite remarkable to be listening to a new album from the band in 2016, and their resurfacing has not been in vain – ‘Good Times’ is a well thought out, accomplished album, with new sounds accompanying the tried and true arrangements we are used to hearing. While this is clearly a celebration of the band and the good ol’ days, it looks to bring The Monkees to the modern era, utilising the writing skills of some modern artists as well as showcasing those of the band themselves.
The album opens with the title track, setting the tone for the album with a happy optimism that was so present in the 60’s, a sentiment reinforced by track two, ‘You Bring the Summer.’ The latter is classic Monkees, a simple theme with simple melodies, but presented in such a way that you can’t help but smile. Micky Dolenz does well to hide his age with some impressive vocals, and it is clear that Jones’ death has not made the band lose any of its charm, an impressive feat considering his big personality. ‘Good Times’ carries on largely in the same vein, an effective guitar solo in ‘Our Own World’ and varied instrument use in ‘Gotta Give it Time’ holding the attention, until track 6, ‘Me and Magdelena,’ offers a slower, more heartfelt contrast to the upbeat offering thus far. Michael Nesmith delivers a vocal performance rivaling the efforts of Dolenz, and makes for one of the album’s highlights.
Another such highlight is the addition of a posthumous song credit for Davy Jones, entitled ‘Love to Love.’ Written by Neil Diamond, its guitar solo and of course Jones’ vocals make it particularly noteworthy, while the Noel Gallagher/Paul Weller penned ‘Birth of An Accidental Hipster’ presents a more modern spin on The Monkees’ 60’s infused tracks. A surprisingly serious ballad, penultimate track ‘I Know What I Know’ could be interpreted as a sombre reference to Jones (“Alone I am, a world apart”), while the final song is a last hurrah for the genre and period the band are synonymous with, complete with an intro reminiscent of The Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’.
Overall, The Monkees deliver with their first album in two decades, and bid farewell in their first outing since the death of Davy Jones. ‘Good Times’ borrows heavily from the roots of the band, but the addition of some modern songwriters make for some surprisingly fresh listening at times. Ultimately though, this is a musical celebration, an album about what made the music of the 60’s, and indeed The Monkees, so iconic. They have proved that true musicianship never lessens with age, and reminded us that in a year where the stars of old are fading, some still aren’t quite done.
‘Good Times’ is out now via Rhino Entertainment.
This Monkees article was written by Matt Shore, a GIGsoup contributor