Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr This year marks the 50th anniversary of the inception of the so-called “Prefab Four.” In the intervening half a century, the Monkees have gone from teenybopper heartthrobs to pop also-rans to reviled relics of an otherwise vaunted era to highly influential favorites of listeners and musicians across the board. It is within this latter context that their first studio album in 20 years, Good Times!, arrives. Four years after the death of Davy Jones, the three remaining Monkees have once again reassembled in an attempt to tap into the pop nostalgia and magic of their prime. And given their advanced age, Good Times! could well represent the final chapter in the band’s story. With Jones gone, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith are left to provide the last word. Enlisting a number of friends old and new, they attempt to tap in to what made their late-‘60s records so special. Where they could have easily gone sentimental and melancholic, the remaining Monkees instead opt for a celebratory retrospective of their career. It’s a smart move in terms of furthering the band’s legacy, sticking to what they do best without trying to win over the naysayers with an updated or mature sound. Instead, Good Times!, its cover loaded with images representative of the group’s heyday, sounds like nothing other than a Monkees’ record. Here they don’t pretend to be anything more than what they have always been: a relic of a long-gone, lionized era of pure pop bliss based in successful singles and screaming fans. Opening track “Good Times,” featuring a posthumous duet between the late Harry Nilsson—sourced from a late-‘60s demo—and Dolenz that could have easily appeared on any of their peak releases in both tone, performance and feel. Were it not for the somewhat off-puttingly clean production—oh for the days of warm, comforting analog—it would be nearly impossible to date stamp this or anything else on Good Times!. And to be sure, that is a very good thing. What the Monkees have always excelled at is the two- to three-minute pop song full of infectious hooks and simple, yet memorable melodies. And rather than attempting to update their sound as they did on their last several outings together, here they stick to what it is they do best. From start to finish, Good Times! feels like a well-deserved victory lap for a band whose critical favor waxes and wanes. And as before, they outsource the majority of the material, sharing a handful of songwriting credits with old favorites like Neil Diamond (“Love to Love,” “Little Girl”), Nilsson (“Good Times!”), Gerry Goffin and Carole King (“Wasn’t Born to Follow”) and Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (“Whatever’s Right”) to help fully recapture what truly made the group special and their singles so memorable. Joining these stalwart veterans are those who could arguably be seen as the Monkees’ progeny. Rivers Cuomo, himself no stranger to polarizing pop confections, contributes two songs to the album, one of which (“Whatever’s Right”) features a co-write from Boyce/Hart. One of the strongest, most Monkees-like songs here is Cuomo’s “She Makes Me Laugh,” a song that could just as easily be heard gracing any number of latter-day Weezer albums. Elsewhere, a host of modern day pop savants offer their services in reverence to the group. Andy Partridge (the gloriously catchy “You Bring the Summer”), Ben Gibbard (the gorgeous “Me & Magdalena”), Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller (“Birth of an Accidental Hipster”), and, contributing an impressive three tracks in addition to handling the majority of the production duties, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger (“Our Own World,” “I Know What I Know” and “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time)”) all bring their A games to their contributions. The Gallagher/Weller-penned “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” in particular manages to capture not only the sound and feel of post-Monkees Monkees, but also a fair share of both of the formers’ own projects. This is modern day psych rock delivered by those who were there and saw firsthand the possibilities opened in the waning years of one of the most tumultuous decades of the 20th century. Beatles-esque in all the best ways, “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” shows the Monkees capable of freaking out with the best of them. Similarly, “Gotta Give It Time” is a rollicking, lost garage rock stomper replete with buzzing organ, trebly, strangled fuzz guitar and heavy snare emphasis on the two and four. It’s an astonishing recreation of the period, capturing all the best elements in just over two minutes. And that’s the major appeal of these tracks: not only are the catchy and a lot of fun, they never overstay their welcome, clocking in at near perfect singles length and sounding like a collection of lost vintage recordings. The only betrayal of age is the wizened voices of Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith, both of whom have found their range dropping into a lower register. Yet despite this, all three remaining Monkees prove themselves to be in fine voice. Dolenz in particular, himself having proven to still be in tremendous voice with the release of 2012‘s Remember], is rightly front and center for much of the album. Always the group’s strongest overall vocalist, Dolenz remains the de facto leader, providing a number of the album’s best moments. And though he passed before work began on the album, Jones takes a posthumous vocal lead on Diamond’s “Love to Love.” It’s a touching tribute to their fallen band mate that eschews the maudlin in favor of a pure pop confection that feels very much of a piece with the remainder of not only the album, but their catalog as a whole. “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had a Good Time),” itself a play on the age-old adage regarding memories of the 1960s, serves as a fitting coda. Never overly self-serious, the Monkees remain an accessible, highly enjoyable pop group capable of delivery a set of songs that feel more 1966 than 2016. But rather than come across as a revisionist take on the band’s legacy, Good Times! instead acts as a satisfying (potential) end to one of the most popularly underappreciated bands of all time. Good Times!, like the majority of their catalog, offers listeners just that.