Jersey Beat December 2021 – Paul Silver
MONTY VEGA AND THE SITTIN’ SHIVAS – Sonic Gloss
I’m going to start by grading this band an A just for their name. If you’re unaware of such things, “sitting shiva” is the Jewish weeklong mourning period after the funeral of a loved one. People come to the family home, bringing food and comfort to the mourners. And if you’re a fan of 90s Ramones-core punk rock, this album will bring comfort to you. Songs like “Don’t Wanna Do What’s Right,” a song about living for the moment, will bring nostalgia for Insub Fest and the like (even though this band wasn’t around back in those days and are from the Pacific Northwest, not the East Coast). A lot of the songs, in the 90s Ramones-core tradition, are humorous or tongue-in-cheek satire, such as the bouncy “Facebook Fighting” and “Flashbang Grenade,” which are pretty straightforward fare. And “Not This Time” is one of the brighter sounding songs of the album, with some variety within the track, making it a favorite. It’s got an epic sounding bridge in the middle that I like. Not everything is Ramonescore. There’s the blues-rock of “Gravity Man.” There are some covers here that are fun. “Daydream Believer” was popularized by The Monkees in the ‘60s, and is done as a punked up version here, rougher and noisier than the AM pop song written by John Stewart. There’s a really different version of “Ghost Rider,” a song done by The Gories, Suicide, and many other bands. Here it’s a slow burner blues-rock tune. Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” is covered, too, but it’s less sparkly and energetic than the original, feeling like the band was a little bored to be doing it. But to redeem themselves, they give us a rocking version of Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.” Monty Vega and the Sittin’ Shivas aren’t setting the world on fire here, but that’s not what sitting shiva is about. It’s about comfort and celebration of life, and they do a fine job of that.
Ballroom Blitz Man at the Back UK December 2021 – Simon Lambert
Monty Vega And The Sittin’ Shivas – ‘Sonic Gloss’ (Album)
Following on from the ‘Closed (No Fun)’ album released at the beginning of this year, Portland’s Ken Weiner (Monty Vega) and Paul Damone are back bookending the year with another album ‘Sonic Gloss’. For those of you who enjoyed ‘Closed (No Fun)’, ‘Sonic Gloss’ will also appeal, another 38 minutes or so of fast paced pop-punk and glam influenced rockers replete with catchy-as-hell choruses, fierce buzz-saw guitars, driving drums and a fun ambience to the whole thing.
The guys have ‘dialled down’ the Ramones influence of ‘Closed (No Fun)’ a little bit and stretched the structures of some of the songs this time to include breakdowns in the middle eights of songs such as ‘Facebook Fighting’ (which also comes with a hooky guitar riff), and ‘Not This Time’, which in the middle of its full-tilt journey has time for a slowed down passage with a slightly pyschedelic tinge, while ‘7 Foot Sswede’ also drops down to a ‘tribal’ drum interval before building up to an explosive finish. But it’s on the flat out quicker numbers such as the fantastic opener ‘Don’t Wanna Do What’s Right’, the ‘sounds exactly like it’s title’ ‘Flashbang Grenade’ and the glamtastic ‘Gravity Man’ with it’s ‘Batman’ guitar riff running through it where the album really shines and is the essence of Monty Vega And The Sittin’ Shivas.
If there’s one gripe I have about the album, it’s the covers that pepper the record – while the versions of ‘Daydream Believer’, ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘The Edge Of Glory’ are enjoyable enough, they detract a little from the guys’ excellent original material, and don’t possess the ‘quirkiness’ of ‘They Don’t Know’ and ‘Rock, Rock (Till You Drop)’ that appeared on the previous album. Having said that, their version of Suicide’s ‘Ghost Rider’ is a brooding, menacing, fine addition to ‘Sonic Gloss’. Perhaps hive the covers off onto a separate covers EP and leave the albums for your own tunes, guys?
Of which ‘Sonic Gloss’ shows a burgeoning facility for good songs and with ‘Too Much Time’ – the album closer – shows that Ken and Paul can vary the tone, pace, and atmosphere in a song and are able to move away from the hundred mile an hour pop-punk anthems they do so well when required. ‘Sonic Gloss’ is another thoroughly enjoyable album from a band that is showing they can transcend their ‘Ramones roots’ and develop into a varied and accomplished outfit.
Razorcake Review July 2021 – Paul J. Comeau
MONTY VEGA & THE SITTIN’ SHIVAS: Closed No Fun: CS July 20, 2021 Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas are one of my favorite discoveries of 2021 so far. The band’s ’60s power pop meets Ramones-esque punk sound had me rocking out from the opening notes of “Last Step,” the first of fourteen tracks jammed onto this album. The needle on the gauge between their power pop and Ramones influences swings from track to track, but I enjoyed the variety this provided. Every one of the songs on Closed No Fun is a banger, making it hard to pick a favorite, but there’s also nothing that you don’t want to hear after repeated listens. I particularly enjoyed their cover of Scandal’s “Goodbye to You,” an example obviously leaning more towards the power pop end of their sound, but with an edge to their version not present in the original.
Maximum Rock N’ Roll Review May 2021
Ballroom Blitz Man at the Back UK February 2021 – Simon Lambert
REVIEW – Monty Vega And The Sittin’ Shivas – ‘Closed (No Fun)’
A new band from Portland, Oregon, Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas, comprising Monty Vega (Ken Weiner) on vocals and drums and Paul Damone on guitar, bass and backing vocals, have expanded the original four track EP of ‘Closed (No Fun)’ up to a 12 track album which should have you jumping up and down and singing along to all the choruses over its 37 minutes.
There is no getting away from the fact that these guys are heavily influenced by The Ramones (no bad thing!) with their buzzsaw guitar sounds and Joey Ramone sound-a-like vocals, and a track entitled ‘Poor Dee Dee’ with its ‘1-2-3-4’ intro only emphasises this (I think that’s the idea with this track), but there are enough touches to ensure that this album is far from a ‘Rocket To Russia’ or ‘Leave Home’ retread.
A 60s organ / keyboard appears on tracks such as ‘Failed State’, ‘Take Me Back’ and ‘High Anxiety’, ‘Nuclear Garden’ is slow, almost ballad like with some nice chord changes and opener ‘Last Step’, although kicking off like ‘Da Brudders’ has a number of tempo changes to prevent it from turning into a ‘ramalama’ copy of Joey and Co. Great catchy choruses (very often with nice interlocking vocals) appear throughout and best track ‘Human Again’ is a glorious glam stomp complete with hand-claps, key changes and fantastic rock ‘n’ roll influenced guitar work.
And then there are the covers; a chugging 60s girl group influenced run-through of Kirsty MacColl’s ‘They Don’t Know’ (a top ten over here for Tracey Ullman) and an astonishing deconstruction of Def Leppard’s ‘Rock, Rock (Till You Drop)’ renamed ‘Bop, Bop (Till You Drop)’ and without any trace of the heavy metal bluster or cut-off Union Jack T-Shirts!
Although not breaking any new ground, ‘Closed (No Fun)’ is an energetic, fun-filled album – something we could all do with at the moment.
New album: Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas || Closed (No Fun)
It is one thing to worship the Ramones and write songs in the vein of those legends. A lot of bands (can and will) do that. But it’s a completely different animal to write songs that, even to fans of the genre, don’t feel derivative of superfluous. Monty Vega & The Sittin’ Shivas are a prime example of a band that succeed in doing so. Their Closed (No Fun) album is in fact a lot of fun to listen to. Sure, It won’t break the sound barrier in terms of speed nor will it win awards for originality, but it’s got plenty of bubblegum and sugar to keep you focused and energized. These guys know how to write a tune and what this record may lack in hi-fidelity, it makes up with infectious choruses and hooks. And as a bonus, this band knows how to do a cover song. They Don’t Know (written by a sixteen (!) year old Kirsty MacColl, made famous by Tracy Ullman) is a great song in itself (Really!), but the band does it justice – I kind of feel this is exactly how the Queers would cover this, which is a compliment. And I almost did not recognize Rock Rock (Till You Drop) by Def Leppard, which the band dubbed Bop! Bop! (Till You Drop). Make sure to also check out the band’s non album yet excellent version of Springsteen’s Hungry Heart which they recorded for a compilation. With this release, Matt Ellis’ Full Moon Fever, and Bobby Ramone’s excellent Ramones mash-up of Bob Marley songs, the Ramones spirit is still very much alive in 2021.