Seattle-based solo project Only Monsters captivates on the new album Influence, melding elements of post-punk and singer/songwriter appeal alongside observations of societal damage — casting a bleakly visceral impression, though concluding with reminders of hope and personal empowerment.
“Everything is trying to kill me,” the vocals nonchalantly convey on the opening track, amidst buzzing synths and quaint guitar trickles. From cancer and alcohol to acid rain and french fries, there’s a strong thematic hold regarding the barrage of threats we face — some more immediate than others. Nonetheless, it’s an apt opener to an album whose themes resonate in their explorations of society, specifically those who abuse their power and influence.
The ensuing “Apocalypse Girl” compels with a grizzled punk enamoring. Clanging acoustics and a reflective bass line accompany lyrics depicting the titular character, who is “waiting around for the sky to fall to the ground.” This follows up the opening “Everything Is Tring to Kill Me” with a consistently thematic engrossment, capturing the nihilistic fetishism that can emerge when one becomes over-consumed with the prevalence of cancer-causing agents, corrupt government officials, and other forms of tumult that run amok in society today.
The dangers of religious evangelism is chillingly asserted on “No Solicitors,” whose nocturnal post-punk character and vocal inflection reminds fondly of The Chameleons UK. The lyrics compare these evangelists, who infringe on one’s beliefs with over-ferocity, to creeping monsters seeking you out. “Chameleon” feels like a thematic accompaniment, guiding acoustic pulses and somber strings alongside observations of people’s tendency to adapt and conform, whether aligning with a political party, religious affiliation, or cult-like following.
“Homo Homini Lupus” and “Wannabe” prove resonating in their shared thematic hold, the former being Latin for “Man is a Wolf to Man” and referencing the poem “Ozymandias,” reflecting on how all of humanity’s feats and constructions will one day be sand. The more punk-minded “Wannabe” proves honest — “you are afraid of who you are,” — while reminding them that they’re just another wannabe. This angsty success feels like a dressing-down of those overwrought with power and pretension, continuing an effective theme conveyed throughout.
The album’s final three tracks prove effective in a more “post-folk” singer/songwriter pursuit, especially stirring in the daily-narrative “Portrait of a Failed State,” where percussive pit-patter and driving acoustics accompany daily anxieties; in this context, it references the abundance of “false alarm” school shootings that perpetually inspire fear.
Finale “The Lighthouse” provides a glimpse of brightness, reminding us of our personal power and capability to better society, alongside sea-bound references befitting of nature’s enduring status in the midst of humanity’s wreckage. Influence is a powerful display in songwriting from Only Monsters.