In Review: The Psychotic Monks - Private Meaning First

The French noise specialists' sophomore LP on FatCat Records is a gripping, paranoid post-punk odyssey, it’s overwhelming gloom a prescient tone for what has been a horrible year.
Posted: 9 December 2020 Words: Tom Mangham

Like Swans or Sonic Youth before them, The Psychotic Monks are one of those bands that need to be heard to be believed, and it can be said that they’re doing something different in a world that is now oversaturated with alternative guitar bands. That being the case however, sophomore LP Private Meaning First is a record that had to grow on me. Released via FatCat Records (Sigur Ros, Twilight Sad, TRAAMS) and recorded in near total isolation in the French countryside to encapsulate the intensity of loneliness, Private Meaning First continues where 2017’s debut LP Silence Slowly and Madly Shines stopped.

Expectations of the record were hazy from the start: first track ‘Pale Dream’, a melodic and emotional piano driven piece, wasn’t the raucous post punk expected from The Psychotic Monks, especially considering how depraved and loud the singles seemed to be in the build-up. ‘Pale Dream’ was setting the tone for an even bleaker experience. Aside from the mood setting though, it isn’t really a reflection on the rest of the record and looking back it’s clear to see that it’s the calm before the storm. It’s with second track, ‘Isolation’, the album kicks off properly. With Sonic Youth-esque messiness, draped in screaming guitars that take notes from the Girl Band guidebook, their sonic soundscapes basically abuse eardrums. Desolate vocals about isolation and a throbbing layer of synth create a doom style paranoia, it’s gloomy, dark and a fitting tone for what has been a horrible year.

‘Minor Division’, the record's standout track, follows similar themes to the rest of the record in that it’s horrifically dark but fascinating all the same. A tightly gripping, paranoid post-punk track with vocal melodies that draw comparisons to London guitar band Shame, it’s a bleak 8-and-a-half minute droning odyssey that climaxes with a progressing distorted crackle.

Private Meaning First is most definitely not an accessible record for the first-time listener, and it seems that a specific mood is needed to listen, but that’s what lies in the eerie charm of the 59-minute LP. Evoking memories of the greats while having its own qualities is endearing enough to make The Psychotic Monks have a success on their hands. 

Private Meaning First is out now via FatCat Records.

More from buzz