Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity (1995)
Have you looked to your orb lately? Of all the warning systems ever designed by humanity, orb-based is probably the most crucially overlooked. Nonetheless, Dopes to Infinity, Monster Magnet‘s third album, is 21 years old. In its and the band’s home state of New Jersey, it could drink legally, though something about cuts like “Dopes to Infinity,” “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” “Third Alternative,” “Blow ’em Off” and “King of Mars” makes me suspect the record wouldn’t have waited until now to imbibe. Even more than two decades later, Dopes to Infinity is still way more the snotty 14-year-old kid in a way-too-big leather jacket in the woods with a bottle of his dad’s Whatever teasing anyone in the vicinity who sips and is surprised at the taste. I was fortunate enough to see the band perform this album live — though the songs weren’t in the same order, as I recall — in Brooklyn in 2012 with Naam and Quest for Fire on the bill, either of whom could easily be considered an acolyte on some level, and nearly five years after that, the resonant impression remains that this was the moment where the band’s early freakout impulses really began to meet with a more straightforward hard rock style that the band would develop to wider commercial success. Don’t get me wrong, their 1991 Spine of God debut should be considered among the finest East Coast psychedelic records ever tracked — we’re talking Velvet Underground-style pedestal-putting, in a perfect world — but even as “All Friends and Kingdom Come” tripped out, it also kept a sense of hook, and in the years to come, it was that impulse more fully took hold.
What’s fortunate about that is that Monster Magnet — then Dave Wyndorf on vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, theremin, production, etc., Ed Mundell on guitar and bass, Joe Calandra on guitar and bass, and Jon Kleiman on drums and bass — had the songwriting chops to make landmark choruses seem like tossoffs, like something thrown together over the course of an afternoon. And maybe they were, I don’t know. The point is that although Monster Magnet would eventually become a much different band and be a much different band for a long time on 1998’s Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No and 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, Dopes to Infinity catches a crucial transitional moment in action coming off Spine of God and its 1993 follow-up, Superjudge, also essential. Of course, after 2010’s Mastermind (review here), the band — Wyndorf as the last original member still present — made a stylistic pivot back toward a more psychedelic vibe with 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) and would continue to develop their rediscovered weirdo impulses over the course of two revisionist works, 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here) and 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), revisiting Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively. But even as they made that sonic shift, Dopes to Infinity could easily be said to be the model being followed more even than the two records before it, because that aspect of memorable songcraft that one hears coming to the fore on “I Control, I Fly” and the brilliant lyrical proclamations of “King of Mars.”
Monster Magnet toured Europe this Spring “celebrating the A&M years” — A&M Records having released their work between 1993-2001 — and that’s fair enough, but as relevant as Dopes to Infinity still is, Monster Magnet keep moving forward even when looking back on older material. I don’t know what they’ll do at this point other than to say it’s a safe bet they won’t be touring the US anytime soon, but one hopes their progression will continue going into their next record. And I hope they keep getting weirder. We’ll see when we get there.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
Total comedown this week from the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer (wrap here) at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn last Saturday. A return to real life that found me working at about 30 percent consciousness until, well, I’ll be generous and say Wednesday. Plenty of good music to let me keep my head up, but yeah. The week dragged and was a drag.
One more time, thank you if you came out to the Vitus Bar for making the day so special. The day had its ups and downs, but in the end it was exactly the vibe I was hoping to capture. I hope I remember it for as long as I can remember anything.
As I write this it’s early Friday morning and the sun is just rising. I can still hear nighttime crickets. It’s nearly 6AM now, I’ve been up since about four. I’ve been going to bed early at night and getting up early to write reviews and posts like this on weekdays, and it’s helped me keep sane during the work week and try to balance job things and Obelisk things in a way that might otherwise prevent my head from exploding. Doesn’t do much for my ability to get to shows generally — I’m 34 years old; can’t wait for that midlife crisis to kick in so I can start going out again to non-fest gigs — but I’m doing what I can to write as much as possible. That’s what matters to me.
The Patient Mrs. is going south to Connecticut this weekend. I am not. Aside from the fact that it’s August and that’s not exactly my idea of beach weather — I recognize this does not apply to the rest of humanity — I think a quiet Saturday in the air conditioning will go a long way toward continued recovery from last weekend and this week. Plus there’s laundry to do. It just seemed like the way to go. So yeah, I’ll be around. I’m sure by Saturday night/Sunday morning I’ll be so bored out of my head I won’t know what to do with myself. That’s the hope, anyway.
Next week, look out for a full stream and review of the Swans-related record from Quin Galavis that’s noisy and folky and bizarre in a lot of the right ways, as well as a review/video premiere (a rare one-two combo) of the new Monkey3 album, a review of the new and apparently final The Wounded Kings full-length, and a whole lot more. I’m also hoping to nail down my travel plans to Norway next month for Høstsabbat, and will keep you posted on how that goes.
In the meantime, have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and the radio stream.