Mono, "The Sky Remains the Same as Ever"

cover image Having enjoyed Mono's last couple of records and their subsequent live dates, I was eager to check out this DVD that documents their tour and time in the studio. Unfortunately, the documentary reveals little new information and struggles with distilling the essence of the band.


Temporary Residence

One of the problems is that it lacks structure and context. Live footage from various shows is haphazardly mixed in with poorly recorded interviews, some landscape and urban photography, and negligible studio footage. There is no narrative nor arc of any sort to it, and I felt no closer to a better understanding of the band after these two hours were over than I had before.

Most of the live footage is shot on black and white video, which doesn't quite do justice to the band's epic songs the same way actual film would. Still, that wouldn't be so important if the footage itself was more interesting. Much of it is filmed from the wings of the stage or behind the band and is frequently mired in things like unnecessary abstract close-ups of the drum set that lack any special aesthetic qualities. More often than not, the camera ends up on the audiences throughout the tour, who sometimes close their eyes and nod in catharsis but usually just stare forward blankly, either dazed or bored. It's not very compelling material.

The best thing about the documentary is the audio quality, and it's a shame that a live CD of this material wasn't included in the package. Even so, sometimes the audio cuts right in the middle of a song and goes directly into something altogether different. It's a jarring experience at odds with the band's more uplifting material. Additionally, there are plenty of instances where the music doesn't match what the band's playing live, ruining the believability of the footage. The obvious, jerky cuts don't help, nor does the frantic camerawork during languid musical passages. The interviews aren't anything special, especially since the audio is terrible, and the few backstage shots are nothing out of the ordinary. At times, the documentary seems more like a eulogy because of the melancholic tone and the distance of the band.

There's a touching moment when a fan leaves an origami bird on the band's effects pedals, but this is an isolated incident that highlights how little of fans' experiences are captured in this documentary. The most enjoyable section of the DVD is the brief bonus feature in which visual artist J improvises a painting on stage as Mono plays. It is the most visually interesting thing on the whole disc.

This DVD is a big disappointment that doesn't do the band any great justice. The footage and the music are frequently at odds, and the little content the documentary offers is often chopped at random. It's not artsy in the least, merely dull.