Monkey Swallows the Universe – You Yesterday
Being as reviewing YouTube clips of Kiki Dee surprisingly doesn’t bring in enough Google AdWords revenue for us to live in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed, IchLugeBullets holds it down in the nine-to-five with a job that doens’t afford us any time off for Xmas until the 25th itself. However, being as we’re good civilized human beings, we’ve already pretty much tuned out as of December 8 and just decided to take it easy. That’s simple work/life balance right there.
Anyway, we were trying to put together enough songs for the iPod shuffle to create a calming atmosphere as everything collapses viciously around us with regards to deadlines and contracts and other stuff we don’t really care about, which led us on a hunt for “You Yesterday”, track six from the debut LP from now-defunct Sheffield tweesters Monkey Swallows the Universe. Unlike the rest of the album it’s taken from, “The Bright Carvings”, it singularly refused to show up in either iTunes or WMP, until some deep folder searching revealed that my PC had decided to rename and file it as “You’re Just A Baby” by Belle and Sebastian. This then went on to crash my last.fm player. If that pointless and uninteresting anecdote isn’t good enough reason to knock out 200 words on why this is a great song, nothing is.
Not to brag, but back when we were undoubtedly the #1 writer in the music webzine game, we brought you Monkey Swallows the Universe effectively on their own. We gave them their first ever review outside of Sheffield, and the band whole-heartedly repaid us by attributing quotes from the review we’d written for StylusMagazine to The Guardian, and took my name off them. Good work all round. We later interviewed them circa the release of their second and final album, “The Casket Letters”, but we didn’t bother to transcribe said interview, mainly because a) it was conducted in that weird-ass faux rockabilly diner on Kilburn High Street with the decor like an Ed Hardy catalogue so the sound quality was awful and b) we spent most of the interview thinking how we’d like to be balls deep in the lead singer. To today, Nat Johnson, for that is her name, still turns up on things like Facebook and Flickr when we upload our email lists for the “find people you may know on here” features, and on Flickr her username is “Magic Johnson”. Which, admittedly, is cute, but could also be her way of telling us she has AIDS.
Anyway, MSTU were great. Seriously, fantastically great, probably the only true A-grade twee band the UK has produced in the 2000s. While compatriots and their one-time headline act The Long Blondes copped the librarian aesthetic for style, MSTU sounded like the did it for a loving, nervous pauses, unnecessary literary and historical allusions (theming an album around Mary, Queen of Scots’ family relationships), so pale as to be dusty-ridden touches of folk music, a vaguely undeveloped sense of humour (they were named after an episode of stoner fave chop-socky TV show Monkey), and one of the most bodrick guys you will ever see in a band with a record deal ever (outside of guys signed to Psycho+Logical, obv).
“You Yesterday” goes absolutely nowhere and enjoys its time doing it, a light ballad about a wasted life, full of fantastic lyrical touches (“the solitaire game that has lasted for weeks might uncover the meaning of life”, “you made dinner for two, drank all the wine and by all a good time was had”) at Nat Johnson’s voice which, being as they’ve since dissolved, we can now admit was what constituted 80% of the band. Effecting whilst still being cold, she manages to keep material like this from sinking into either northern kitchen sink territory or gloopy tweeness, which is, back to the earlier point, why the UK doesn’t produce great twee bands anymore, an inability to walk that tightrope.
Johnson now records solo, but we’ve not got around to hearing any of that stuff yet. It’s probably good, though.