The ads that ran in The Hollywood Reporter and the Daily Variety did their trick back in 1965. The casting call was quick and professional and Bob Rafelson (the man who would go on to be the director responsible for two signature films of the 1970s: The King of Marvin Gardens and Five Easy Pieces) arrived at his final four men. The fabricated band was The Monkees, the sound a tongue-in-cheek take on The Beatles and the success was immediate.
So Good Times! their latest long player, seems a bit of a pointless effort, an attempt to ensure they haven’t quite slipped out of the collective consciousness in the modern musical churn; but the LP (sans the late Davy Jones) has no doubt found Jeremy Vine at BBC Towers squirming gleefully in his foam studio chair. Ostensibly released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the group’s fabrication in 1965 (and a chance to squeeze more dollars out of a heritage act, surprise surprise) with newly-penned songs by Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, and Ben Gibbard, the LP is full of safe, three-minute pop slices of the kind that sold like hot cakes in 1968. But the mock Beatles attitude is no longer in evidence.
Instead, the title track is all Elvis and is elevated by Dolenz’ impassioned delivery. There’s a nifty guitar solo too, but thereafter the LP begins its slide towards the ephemera of radioland: Rickenbackers jangle and you can almost see, on tracks like ‘Gotta Give It Time’, the booted and mini-skirted young ladies of yesteryear flinging their arms to the beat. There’s something a little more substantial on the melancholic ‘Me & Magdalen’a, and while the well-hewn melodies of ‘She Makes Me Laugh’ and ‘I Know What I Know’ don’t displease, the three-chord struts and upbeat pop enthusiasm begin to pall by the fifth track as the album sinks inexorably into kitsch. The Gallagher/Weller offering – ‘Birth Of An Accidental Hipster’, which appears late in the running order – is predictably mired in a Sixties sound that never travelled out of that decade as well as it might have; the Gallagher anthemic plod is there but a discernible melody is not, while Weller’s input is perhaps the quaint Kinks-style pub piano interludes.
The closer – ‘I Was There’ – is too ‘Fab Four circa ’68’ for its own good and with its dispiriting cliché leaves you feeling slightly grubby. Good Times! therefore, is an album – like so many others – that can’t stop from plundering the dusty melodies of a bygone era. But if you like your pop bathed in the jaundiced neon of that particular decade, look no further, despite the enjoyment that the listener derives from this album never equalling that which messrs Dolenz/Tork/Nesmith derived from its recording. Which is a nice, roundabout way of saying save your money for a ticket on the last train to Clarksville.
Good Times! is out now via Rhino Records.