Highlight "I Am Plankton" takes the listener on a gloopy undersea journey through schools of bubbly arpeggio and over shoals of bumpy distorted bass. Aquatic theremin gives way to booming merfolk warrior chants at minute four. About the only thing that's missing is Ariel singing about her spoon collection and some crabs playing steel drums.
Pinning this record down to a genre is as futile as resisting its wit. There are ska horns over a Mega Man track on "Bad Wind (With a Touch of Acid)," chopped house girl vox on "Salieri Complex," dark alley meat beats on "The Unanswered Question" and tuba elephants on parade in "The 11 11." All have entertainment value, but (save the perhaps the legitimately affecting keyboard movements on "Stargirl") they're punchlines that work best the first time.
With touches of woozy disco, expanses of broken harp and techno clown cars, Monday's songs deliver a sort of wordless joke at the expense of listeners that take themselves too seriously. It's no accident that the video for stumble-funk single "Catnip" shows Monday as a drug-clouded little blue dude on a magic keyboard ride through a Yellow Submarine cartoon world. When the video was posted as a freebie on iTunes in October, it spurred a thread hundreds of posts long, with some American viewers lauding its freewheeling whimsy and others feeling confused and pissed off. On his blog, Monday wrote, "The reaction to 'Catnip' has shown in an unusual and unexpected way two sides of an amazing and bewildering country, and makes me realize why I both love and fear the United States."
Monday has crafted a home-listening record that will be a vexing head-scratcher for some and an infectious head-nodder for others. That may be its biggest shortcoming—a lack of a specific audience. Songs without Words is too high energy to chill out to and too weird for most parties. It demands an open mind and a druggy sense of humor from its listeners, and in that sense, perhaps Monday is right to regard his music as a red-state/blue-state litmus test.