One of the simpler pleasures of the noisy-post-new-wave thang, the Velvet Monkeys don’t attach any highbrow pretensions to their love of cheesy pop clamor. Whatever irony their work possesses is strictly an afterthought. In the band’s earliest incarnation, leader Don Fleming (vocals/guitar) wrote songs with time-honored trash themes (“Let’s go to the drive-in tonight”) and the Washington DC group played them with the requisite amounts of enthusiasm and Farfisa. Subsequent alliances with Half Japanese brought out the avant-gardisms, but nothing serious enough to catch the attention of highbrow critics, and more power to the Monkeys for that.
The 1989 Rotting Corpse compilation gathers the band’s previous high points (1980-’84) into one convenient package. When the Velvet Monkeys broke up, Fleming and drummer Jay Spiegel moved to New York and formed B.A.L.L.; when that group ended, they reformed the Velvet Monkeys, enlisting such new pals as J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Julia Cafritz (ex-Pussy Galore) for the fake-’70s exploitation “soundtrack” Rake. Given Fleming’s new residence and acquaintances, the album is predictably more grungy and smartass than previous Monkeys records, but an enjoyable kick nonetheless.