Call it synth-punk, electro-punk, post-punk, punk/new wave, or whatever you like. Just know that MONONEGATIVES do it better than almost any band out there. On its debut album Apparatus Division, the London, Ontario trio has condensed all the anxieties and terrors of present times into a 12-track synth-punk masterpiece. Out on the legendary labels No Front Teeth and Big Neck Records, Apparatus Division expands and refines the musical vision of last year's extraordinary EP Sure Shock. A laboratory analysis of MONONEGATIVES' musical DNA would confirm the group's ancestral relations to Devo, Wire, The Screamers, Joy Division, and Tubeway Army. But this band manages to take those influences (and others) and craft a sound that comes off as original and contemporary in the modern-day dystopian nightmare of 2021.
I would still describe MONONEGATIVES as a band that puts the "punk" in synth-punk. 10 of these dozen tracks clock in at under three minutes, and four come in under two. These guys still can rip into a song with speed and fury. But even with the relatively short running times, a lot of these tracks find the band slowing tempos and using synthesizers to create tone and atmosphere. The approach to songwriting is so creative that some tracks are like two songs in one -- transforming from moody post-punk to a raging ball of fire without warning. I like how this band takes full advantage of synthesizers in punk rock. The synths are not just there as background -- they are central to the songs and developed with a composer's mentality. Impressively, the band pulls off a sound like this that successfully mixes the primal guts of garage/punk with the synthetic sensibilities of electronic new wave. It's all part of a larger artistic vision that also encompasses the band name, song titles, and art work. Apparatus Division is the sort of album that ought to be absorbed with headphones. Just press play and let MONONEGATIVES pull you into their wild, strange world. Are you entering a surrealist future or just the frightening present that your conscious mind won't allow you to acknowledge? The answer is open to interpretation.