Written by: AP on 07/09/2011 15:57:22

Selling Mona to record labels must have been easy, requiring but three words: Princes of Leon. To the ears of profit-hunting label executives everywhere, that pitch must have sounded as lovely as Shakespeare's sonnets. It also happens to be extraordinarily accurate. Such is the disturbing similarity between Nashville, TN alternative rock band Mona and Kings of Leon, incidentally also from Nashville, TN, that on the likes of "Cloak and Dagger" on Mona's self-titled debut, it is almost impossible to determine blindfolded which band is playing it. What adds to the irony is the fact that Mona also grew from an almost identical religious background.

This presents me, as a reviewer, with a colossal dilemma. On the one hand, Kings of Leon is an excellent band who understand how to put together retro garage rock like no other, so music that essentially sounds exactly the same is difficult to dismiss as garbage; fans of the band's style will certainly appreciate another album full of it, regardless of whom it came from. But on the other hand, Mona's blatant attempt to cash out on another band's success is as shameful as it is unforgivable. It is only worsened by the attitude underlying the record: vocalist Nick Brown has clearly stated his intention to become bigger than Bono and to save popular culture from its own artistic bulimia.

Paradoxically from the opening notes of "Cloak and Dagger" onwards, it is comically obvious that "Mona" has been made with instant success in mind, at the expense of everything else. The production is huge and soulless, customized for prospective arena gigs - the band is already playing to thousand strong crowds - while the reverb that makes Kings of Leon's sound so original and natural does the opposite here, sucking out the vitality and making songs like "Lines in the Sand" and "Listen to Your Love" sound phony and contrived. It's like the record's big ballad moments want to contain all the romance and melodrama of U2, but instead collapse under the weight of their own overwroughtness.

Forgive me if this all sounds unnecessarily cruel - there are nuggets of promise to be heard on "Mona" too, most notably "Taboo Lights" and "Teenager", which I suppose are intended to be hit singles on par with "Sex on Fire" - but for an album that suffers from such a distinct lack of identity it really is difficult to identify reasons for potential. Considering that Nick Brown openly claims the band has written over 500 songs, it is somewhat worrying if these 11 are the cream of them. Or perhaps Brown calculated these had the best chance of railroading him into the kind of massive success Kings of Leon enjoy.


Download: Taboo Lights, Teenager
For the fans of: The Bravery, Kings of Leon, U2
Listen: Facebook

Release date 14.05.2011
ZIONNOIZ Recordings

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