Big Head Todd and the Monsters radiates energy

You will sit there snapping your fingers, trying to jog your memory, inevitably wondering where you’ve heard this before. Probably nowhere – but the music of Big Head Todd and the Monsters undeniably sounds familiar.

The band’s sound is unique, but its feel is familiar. With each note and chord on Live Monsters (Giant Records), the band invites you – a long-lost friend – on a musical journey. A compilation of recordings from live concerts, the album includes performances from 1995 through 1998 and contains pieces from five previous albums.

Typically, the quality of live albums rests on the band’s interaction with the crowd. The band members’ interaction with the audience can dominate the disc and overshadow the music. But an album that eliminates much of this interaction, so the band appears to build a wall between itself and the audience, alienates the listener behind a barrier, making it difficult to truly understand the music.

Live Monsters includes the right amount of everything – some songs without audience participation, others in which the band members talk to the audience, and some with the audience belting along. You automatically envision the setting and connect with the band.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters plays with an energy that echoes in each song. The band continuously exudes a high intensity and transfers to the listener, an inescapable, touching force.

The emotions and genre of music change with each song. The opening track, “Bittersweet,” immediately lures listeners into the album. The soft, sultry vocals of lead singer Todd Park Mohr compels evaluation of the beautiful lyrics written by Mohr: “Morning light fills the room, I rise/She pretends she’s sleeping/Are we everything we wanted?”

Each song is a story – a beautifully told tale that grasps you. You’ve been there – a character in the story.

After a melancholy opener, “Turn the Light Out” offers a faster pace. The pattern of alternating slow and fast tracks lingers throughout the entire album. The middle track, “Circle,” offers a harsher sound, thrusting you into the second half of the album, which offers more electrifying music.

With a plethora of memorable songs such as “Resignation Superman” and “Tangerine,” pinpointing one song as the highlight is difficult. “The Leaving Song,” however, easily wins as the most unique track of Live Monsters.

Opening with a modified drum role and a harmonica interlude, “The Leaving Song” is fresh from the country music scene yet retains the rock elements of a deep bass and pounding percussion. This track breaks all limits on energy levels, as Big Head Todd and the Monsters dazzles with a passionate spunk.

From blues to country to pop rock to folk, Big Head Todd and the Monsters plays them all and perfects them all. The band adds a little to each type of music to convert it into its own. Instead of following a formula, the band concocts its own. Even with a uniquely eclectic sound, Big Head Todd and the Monsters radiates a familiarity that leaves you wondering if you’ve heard the band before, and knowing you want to hear it again.

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