Resisting the magnetism of the monsters of stoner rock is futile
Much has been said and written lately about the revival of psychedelic rock. Almost every other alternative rock band today with whimsical content in their lyrics – and enough reverb and delay on their guitars to make their sound truly reminiscent of the ‘60s era – is immediately identified as ‘neo-psychedelic’. Bands like Wooden Shjips, Tame Impala and Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats are all given credit for single-handedly bringing the psychedelic sound back into the spotlight, and even in the reviews of the latest album of the ultimate pop maverick, Lady Gaga, the word ‘psychedelic’ is the most used adjective.
But if you ask those rock music fans whose teenage years fell at the beginning of the 1990s to name a few real psychedelic rock revivalists – the ones who succeeded in keeping the psychedelic flame alive throughout the pop-dominated ‘80s – you will surely hear names like Kyuss and Monster Magnet. These bands, combining acid rock and doom metal with the sheer power of the early ‘90s sound, took psychedelic rock into the new decade, and eventually into the new millennium.
Monster Magnet were formed in 1989 by a lead-singer and guitarist, Dave Wyndorf, guitarist John McBain and a singer/drummer, Tim Cronin. It is said that the three life-changing events that heavily influenced Wyndorf were the discovery of his older brother’s record collection, a UFO sighting experienced earlier in his life, and attending a Hawkwind concert in New York. Wyndorf has played for many bands over the years, and he was already 33 when Monster Magnet were founded.
In 1991, they recorded their first album, Spine Of God, an underground gem that quickly became many stoner rock fans’ favourite record. According to Spin magazine’s review in 1991, Spine Of God was a “chunky, clunky, but funky sludgefeast that makes Soundgarden sound like the New Kids”. Monster Magnet became noticed by several major labels, and after securing a record deal with A&M, they released Superjudge in 1993 and the excellent album Dopes To Infinity in 1995. The latter, which combined stoner metal with psychedelic rock and space rock, is considered by some fans as the band’s masterpiece. Such songs as ‘King of Mars’, ‘All Friends and Kingdom Come’ and the band’s first ever single, ‘Negasonic Teenage Warhead’ – the space-influenced video for which was all over MTV in 1995 – still remain among fans as the most favourite ones ever performed by the band. Back then, the band’s line-up consisted of Wyndorf, guitarist Ed Mundell, bass player Joe Calandra and the drummer Jon Kleiman.
But it was not until 1998 that the band got their first well-deserved chart success. Their fourth full length release, Powertrip, proved to be their commercial breakthrough. The album, produced by Wyndorf himself in collaboration with renowned producer Matt Hyde, spawned multiple successful singles, such as ‘Space Lord’, ‘Powetrip’ and ‘See You in Hell’. The album reached #65 in the UK charts and #97 in the US Billboard 200, was certified gold in the US, and ensured international recognition for the band.
Powertrip remains the band’s highest chart success to date. After two years of touring in support of the album, the band released their follow-up, God Says No, in 2001, but it failed to repeat the success of the previous album, and the band were dropped from the A&M label. In 2004 and 2007, the band released two more albums, but they failed to chart. During this period, Wyndorf went through some rough times, overdosing on sleeping pills at one point, and the story of Monster Magnet looked seemingly finished.
However, the story was far from over. In 2010, Wyndorf released the band’s eighth studio album, Mastermind, to positive reviews and a good reception from the fans. Mastermind became the band’s first album to chart on the Billboard 200 since 2001. After two years of extensive touring, the band entered the studio once again and in 2013 they released their latest effort, Last Patrol, which features eleven songs, one of which is a psychedelic version of Donovan’s ‘Three King Fishers’. The album, which is seen by critics as a return to form, entered the charts in the US and Europe.
“[This is] a return to our roots in terms of vibe and recording style,” Wyndorf explained to blabbermouth.net. “It’s full-on psychedelic space-rock with a ‘60s garage feel, recorded almost exclusively with vintage guitars, amps and effects in our hometown of Red Bank, New Jersey. The songs are a kind of space-noir: tales of cosmic revenge, peaking libidos, alienation and epic strangeness. It’s a weird trip through the back alleys of a dark, retro future, which not by coincidence very much resembles my own life.”
Monster Magnet are undoubtedly one of the longest lasting stoner rock bands in US, and Wyndorf is taking them on the road again in 2014. As a part of the Last Patrol support tour, Monster Magnet will play in Copenhagen on January 20 at Lille Vega, supported by Japanese doom metal act Church of Misery. This concert is recommended to anyone who wants to witness some of the true revivalists of psychedelic rock – before they finally call it a day.
Vega, Enghavevej 40, Cph V;
Tickets: 225kr, www.billetnet.dk