It's funny how I can remember the first time I heard Jonathan Fire*Eater (I was wrapping up college in spring of 1998), my first exposure to the D.C. band (the Tremble Under Boom Lights EP) and my reaction to the band (going totally nuts and nursing a mild obsession for a year or two). The thing that I don't recall at all is how I came to get my hands on that EP, as I'm sure I didn't buy it and, if memory serves me, virtually nobody I knew at the time was aware of this band, let alone handing out full-artwork digipack EPs. Can we just chalk it up to deus ex machina, rock karma or a rare bit of good luck?
Maybe the impact of the band's totally idiosyncratic blend of D.C. art-rock, Rolling Stones like swagger and beatnik-jazz feel just overshadowed that minor part of my introduction to Jonathan Fire*Eater. Anyway, shortly after that, I hunted down Wolf Songs for Lambs, and with it "These Little Monkeys." It's probably the closest JF*E got to a pop single. It's short, has an easily memorable chorus ("These little monkeys are crawling around/These little monkeys are breeding again," which certainly seems a lot cooler when singer Stewart Lupton utters them than when you read my transcription), and there's even a vestigial guitar hook lurking under the heavy low ends and funeral-parlor organs. If pop didn't exactly mesh with Jonathan Fire*Eater's songwriting, which flourished when it stuck to poetic storytelling and the band's haunting garage/jazz/rock/indie combo, it's still a treat whenever "These Little Monkeys" (or any Jonathan Fire*Eater tune, for that matter) unexpectedly pops up on shuffle.
Jonathan Fire*Eater fell to pieces as it recorded Wolf Songs for Lambs. Several members moved on to form The Walkmen. I can remember exactly how I came across their first EP (purchased online), but, still to this day, can't really care too much about the music. Funny how that works, isn't it?