Most rock reunion albums feel defeatist and grim, as if the participants know all too well they’re re-forming for financial reasons. The best that can be said for the Monkees’ Justus is that at least they sound like they’re having fun. Working with the nostalgia-wary Michael Nesmith for the first time in a quarter century, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork work overtime to re-create their goofy, lovable camaraderie. Whether remaking their obscure ”Circle Sky” as old-man grunge or harmonizing woozily like weathered sailors, they’re basking in the glow of redemption — for a band long dismissed as uncool, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should be calling any moment.
The Monkees slip up on two different banana peels, though. To dispel their ’60s-Milli Vanilli reputation, they play their own instruments — not too shabbily, but not crisply enough to match the effervescence of their hits. Which leads to flub No. 2: Those hits were penned by outside songsmiths — unlike Justus, which features their own material. Nesmith’s slice of bad psychedelic rock (the clunky anti-ad-copy rant ”Admiral Mike”) is topped only by Tork’s shot at cosmic lounge jazz (”I Believe”) and Dolenz’s ”Never Enough,” on which the 51-year-old sings ”I don’t stand a chance to fill your sweet lovin’ cup” with a straight face. Perhaps Justusandgoodsongwritersand producers would’ve truly done the Monkees, well, justice. C-