Monsta X have returned with their second full-length album Take 1: Are You There? This 7-membered group have been known for their dramatic songs and masculine appeal and under Starship Entertainment, Shownu, I.M., Kihyun, Minhyuk, Hyungwon, Jooheon and Wonho have slowly increased made their mark in an over-saturated market. The boys are also the first K-Pop group to be part of iHeartRadio ‘Jingle Ball’ tour sharing a stage with the likes of Cardi B, Camila Cabello, Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa, and more. Fans, called Monbebe, are sure to be in attendance.

EDM heavy, their latest album remains a strong addition to their discography even if some of its aggressive rapping feels slightly out of place. 'Underwater' is a perfect example. It starts smooth and very melodic right up to the chorus, not a particular standout, but hardly egregious, until the erratic changes in its instrumental make one pay more attention for the wrong reason. The moment passes and it switches to I.M’s slick rapping in both English and Korean until the second switch up comes into play. It’s confusing and jarring - an experiment that just doesn’t quite work out.

Title track 'Shoot Out' is an absolutely bass-loaded single that would shake houses given the right equipment. It’s an invert of Underwater where they start loud and heavy but switch to a smoother more familiar version of Monsta X previously seen through singles like 'Jealousy' or 'Lost In The Dream'. Where Underwater failed to combine the harsh with the soft, 'Shoot Out' is an enjoyable listen aided by the catchy ‘shoot out, shoot out, shoot out’ lyrics. It’s refined chaos where the rap line are adding some drama instead of being too distracting.

Aside from the drama, Monsta X have been a group worth listening to because of their more light-hearted tracks. 'Tropical Night' and X both from 2017 release The Code offered much needed breaks in a sensual and mature album. 2018 versions of 'Heart Attack' and 'I Do Love U' are bright additions that show more variety. The latter included almost all the members in writing lyrics which adds a personal touch to a carefully managed group.

A surprise in the album is the grungy 'Myself', with a repetitive drum beat and guitar in the verses, creating a hazy, dreamlike effect. Everything is slowed down and conjures up imagery of the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Jooheon’s punchy rap does well to stop it becoming too flat and rounds off a new sound for the group.

All in all, Take 1: Are You There? promises some new sounds without stepping too far into uncharted ground. You can find that familiar Monsta X sound if you’re a longtime fan, but you can also dip into their older releases and not feel disconnected if you’re entirely new to the group. They are a talented bunch. Monsta X know their strengths and I’ll be expecting more from them in the future.