P.P.T’s Tres Monos In Love


PPT is the international airport code for Papeete, Tahiti. There are no coincidences.

Comparisons suck, but P.P.T.’s music puts me in mind of a buncha bands from the mid-‘90s that were mightily influenced by classic early-‘70s soul like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, and like that: the Brand New Heavies, Soul II Soul, the Family Stand, and a group whose name escapes me who had one CD on Motown ca. ’87 that was a concept album about a political activist named Shaheed Muhammad who winds up getting assassinated (not A Tribe Called Quest; I swear I’m not making this up). Anybody out there who remembers, e-mail Velton. All of which is merely to say, they ‘member what “soul music” means.

The more obvious comparison (based on P.P.T.’s light, loopily funkadelic sound; clever wordplay; and a fair amount of self-deprecating humor in their work) would be to “daisy age” hip-hoppers De La Soul, for whom the track “Jealousy,” f’rinstance, could easily be mistaken. To these feedback-scorched ears, the melismatic lead voxxx, sweet vocal harmonies, big beat and synth basslines on tracks like “Frustrated” and “Waterfall Girl” are equally evocative of the early ‘90s New Jack Swing heyday of producer Teddy Riley. But P.P.T. are up to much more than simple silly sonics: these cats are full-blown conceptual artists, not just shtick-mongers like old faves Honchie, with whom they butted heads last year in the competition to have the Dallas Mavericks’ 2006 playoff theme song (P.P.T. won, just weeks after their formation), or the execrable Lazer, with whom P.P.T. got in a stupid media pissing contest in the wake of said competition.

Group members Pikahsso (a.k.a. Terry Jones), Picnic (a.k.a. Richard Escobedo) and Tahiti (a.k.a. Walter Archey) joined forces last February after collaborating on a video for Pikahsso’s track “Verb.” They’re smart marketers and self-promoters -- and that’s meant as a compliment, by the way; bands that aren’t willing to do that legwork have no right to crab when nobody shows up at their gigs. Dig: They’ve aggressively reached out to audiences outside the, um, urban demographic, playing a Kinky Friedman benefit at the Sons of Hermann Hall with the Theater Fire and sharing bills with labelmates Black Tie Dynasty. This CD (which has been out since January, but I’m slow on the pickup) is available at BestBuy nationwide! They released a special single (with accompanying video) for Valentine’s Day! They’ve got their own brand of sneakers! No half-stepping for these hop-hippers! P.P.T. might not Take Themselves Seriously, but they are most definitely Not Kidding.

The sound of Tres Monos In Love is epic, multi-layered and sprawling. On its own terms, it stands up as a gorgeous pop confection, a swirling kaleidoscope of colors and textures, a dizzying rollercoaster ride through the minds of three pop culcha-obsessed art nerds.  Pick-to-click at mi casa “Frustrated” clearly elucidates the modern day Lothario’s dilemma (e.g., working wimmin who are too stressed out from the j-o-b to wanna make lurrrve). The loping groove to “Work It Out” is damn near irresistible, so much so that it’s easy to miss P.P.T.’s low-rent love-man verbal fillips (“I love her dirty drawers…Let me pop the pimples off your back”). In other words, this is head music as well as body music, the kind that rewards repeated listenings.

But that’s only half the story. Beyond the music, these internet-age overachievers have packaged Tres Monos with a bonus DVD that includes self-produced videos for nearly every song on the album! How’s that for value-for-money? The vids -- directed by Tahiti, who recently filmed a suspenseful little short, Box, in just a week (you can see it on Steven Spielberg’s website the Lot-- provide a good visual analogue for the music. Pick o’ the litter: “Dumps,” featuring an energetic performance by guest artist Headkrack, and the ‘60s-referential clip for “Work It Out,” showing once again that P.P.T. respect their history.

And re: the “tres monos”: Everything’s more fun with monkeys.