Monster Magnet Interview with Dave Wyndorf: “An Interesting World”

Posted in Features on August 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

monster magnet 1

I had been looking forward all week to talking to Monster Magnet‘s Dave Wyndorf for the simple reason that, of anyone you might talk to on any given day, chances are he’s the guy who’s going to have the most interesting story to tell and chances are he’s going to get to telling it with the least amount of bullshit possible. We last spoke in 2013 when Monster Magnet released Last Patrol (review here), what was at the time their strongest outing in more than a decade by my estimation, marked by a return to prominence of the band’s psychedelic and space rock influences. In short, they got weird again. And not a moment too soon.

Their prior outing, 2010’s Napalm Records debut, Mastermind (review here), certainly had its moments but ultimately came across as playing to formula both in songwriting and aesthetic. For a band who’d been so brazen earlier in their career on records like their classic 1991 debut, Spine of God, or even 1998’s fourth outing, Powertrip, which set the tone in one way or another for nearly everything Monster Magnet would do until Last Patrol arrived. Prior to that album, it seemed like a changing heavy rock climate had left them behind, and so it was even more encouraging when, instead of pressing ahead after Last Patrol and essentially working under a new formula, Wyndorf and his studio partner, guitarist Phil Caivano, got even weirder, reworking material from Last Patrol, tripping it further out and pushing even deeper into space on last year’s unexpected release, Milking the Stars (review here).

If Milking the Stars proved anything at all, it was that anyone who thought they knew what Monster Magnet were going to do next — fans, critics, whoever — were dead wrong, and the upcoming Cobras and Fire (out Oct. 9 on Napalm; review pending) follows that impulse even deeper. In concept, it does to Mastermind essentially what Milking the Stars did to Last Patrol; it reimagines the songs and gives them a new context. The difference is the songs from Mastermind had a much longer way to go to get to where they are on Cobras and Fire, which between the brand new sleazed-out opener “She Digs that Hole” and the Temptations-gone-Hawkwind cover “Ball of Confusion” makes even the most whacked-out jams on the last album seem tame.

Reworking cuts like “Time Machine” and “The Titan Who Cried Like a Baby” — now just “The Titan” — as instrumentals broadens the context further, but the strength of Cobras and Fire is as much about the quality of what’s there as what’s done with it. “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” “Gods and Punks,” and “Hallucination Bomb” were strong tracks to start with — had good bones, you might say if they were a house you were interested in buying — but their stretched, twisted, morphed into new identities for themselves and the album as a whole, the headphone-worthiness of which bleeds from every minute of its hour run, right down to the Joe Barresi-assembled mashup, “I Live behind the Paradise Machine,” which rounds out on a boldly atmospheric note, sending Cobras and Fire out not with a bang, or with a whimper, but with the realization that there’s a whole world out there and as much as ever, something about it just doesn’t fit.

Wyndorf has a keen talent for phrasing, as anyone who’s ever read his lyrics can attest. In the interview that follows, he talks as much if not more about the conditions in which artists create today as about these songs or bringing Chris Kosnik in on bass for the live incarnation of the band with lead guitarist Garrett Sweeny, WyndorfCaivano, and drummer Bob Pantella, but I consider it all relevant to not just this record, but to where Monster Magnet are headed from here as they continue to move forward to their inevitable next full-length, next tour, etc. Basically, each ramble is a fucking treasure, and as much as you want to dig in, you can. In the end, if you can’t get down, it’s your loss.

Complete Q&A is 9,200-plus words. It follows after the jump. Enjoy.

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audiObelisk Transmission 050

Posted in Podcasts on August 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

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We’re a little bit overdue for a new podcast and I know it. A hectic couple weeks, I suppose. But it’s here now and there’s plenty to dig into, so hopefully it’ll make up for some of the lost time. Not like the site’s lacking for audio — you might say there’s a 24-hour live-streaming radio station with a permanent home over there in the sidebar — but it’s still nice to feature some new tracks from what’s come across for review and other consideration.

A few marquee names this time around: Monster Magnet, Pentagram, Kadavar. And on the other end of the spectrum, a band like Seagrave, whose inclusion here is taken from their demo. In between those extremes, an outfit like Borracho continue to refine their heavy rock bona fides, Thera Roya delve deep into post-metallic abrasion, Black Tremor capture a dark Americana, and Weeed earn their third ‘e’ with massive stoner sprawl. And speaking of sprawl, you might notice the first hour ends at 52 minutes. Well, things get long early. Thera Roya, Iguana, Matuska and We Lost the Sea all top 10 minutes — the latter 20 — and that pushes the total runtime over two hours. I figured it’s the 50th one, so fair enough to stretch a bit. Hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Kadavar, “Last Living Dinosaur” from Berlin
0:04:02 Pentagram, “Walk Alone” from Curious Volume
0:07:18 Monster Magnet, “Mastermind ‘69” from Cobras and Fire: The Mastermind Redux
0:13:34 Weeed, “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” from Our Guru Brings us to the Black Master Sabbath
0:22:08 Tuna de Tierra, “Ash” from EPisode 1 – Pilot
0:29:29 Seagrave, “Through the Lion’s Eye” from Dead Demo
0:32:45 Vinnum Sabbathi, “Hex I – The Mastery of Space” from Split with Fuzzonaut
0:39:52 Borracho, “Superego” from The Second Coming of Heavy Split with Geezer
0:47:27 Black Tremor, “Rise” from Impending
0:52:36 Thera Roya, “Unraveling” from Unraveling

Second Hour:
1:05:37 Iguana, “Cult of Helios” from Cult of Helios
1:21:09 Matushka, “Drezina” from II
1:40:55 We Lost the Sea, “Challenger Pt. I: Flight” from Departure Songs

Total running time: 2:04:22

 

Thank you for listening.

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Monster Magnet to Release Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) Oct. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

When the planes fall from the sky, we’ll understand. Or probably not. Either way, as they approach a quarter-century from the release of their first album, New Jersey’s Monster Magnet continue to astound and confound. The latest project? A welcome revisioning of 2010’s Mastermind (review here) that follows suit behind what last year’s Milking the Stars (review here) did for 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) — except that the difference is Last Patrol was already freaked out to start with and Mastermind was about as straightforward hard rock as the band ever got before an also-welcome shift into weirdness. Cobras and Fire gives the majority of the tracks on Mastermind the lysergic kick they deserve, highlighting the universal quality of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf‘s songwriting while reaffirming the righteousness of their current direction. I’m not going on record saying I’ve heard it or anything, but unofficially, it’s fucking awesome.

Fresh off the PR wire:

monster magnet cobras and fire

MONSTER MAGNET To Release Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) October 9th on Napalm Records

Dave Wyndorf and his henchmen seemingly had the time of their lives when they completely rearranged and boosted Last Patrol 2014 and christened it Milking the Stars: A Re-imagining of Last Patrol!

Now MONSTER MAGNET go back even further to 2010 and their Mastermind album. Even if you know the album inside and out you won`t be prepared in the slightest for the trip that is Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux): just think of the beast Apocalypse Now turned into in its Redux form. Familiar elements drift by and are swallowed whole by thundering psych orgies – Wyndorf often focuses on a singular song fragment and turns it into his ride to total Nirvana. Go look for your daily dose of average rock elsewhere: this is the mindfuck of the year!

Frontman Dave Wyndorf on the new album:

“Hey, hey!

I’m pleased to announce the release of Cobras And Fire: The Mastermind Redux. It’s a re-imagining of material from 2010’s Mastermind album as an alternative listening experience that I think stands on it’s own.

With Cobras And Fire I wanted to present these songs in a much stranger and dirtier atmosphere. Less “classic rock” and more…well, I’d guess I’d call it a deranged fusion of Garage-Psych, Fuzz Punk and Movie Soundtrack music. It’s almost completely re-recorded (with the bulk of the guitar and bass playing by co-producer Phil Caivano) and as in Milking The Stars I’ve added organ, piano, sitars and more to flesh out a completely new sound for these tunes. There’s also a Hawkwind/Pink Fairies inspired cover version of The Temptations 1969 classic “Ball Of Confusion” with background vocals by MONSTER MAGNET co-founder and Rib Eye Bros. frontman Tim Cronin. Plus an 8 minute, tripped out sonic adventure entitled “I Live Behind The Paradise Machine” specially created by mixer extraordinaire Evil Joe Barresi. Joe is at his best here, seamlessly integrating elements from several MAGNET songs into a new, stand alone composition.

All in all I call this the weirdest MONSTER MAGNET yet, and that’s a good thing! I hope you like it!

Rock on!”

Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) will be released on Napalm Records October 9th. The album is available for pre-order via the Napalm Records Webstore HERE.

Cobras and Fire (The Mastermind Redux) Track Listing:
1. She Digs That Hole
2. Watch Me Fade
3. Mastermind ’69
4. Hallucination Bomb
5. Gods and Punks
6. The Titan
7. When The Planes Fall From the Sky
8. Ball of Confusion
9. Time Machine
10. I Live Behind the Paradise Machine Evil Joe Barresi’s Magnet Mash Vol.1

For More Info Visit:
http://www.zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet
http://www.napalmrecords.com

Monster Magnet, “Milking the Stars”

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Monster Magnet European Tour Starts Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Beginning tonight, New Jersey heavy rock stalwarts Monster Magnet hit the road for a return trip to Europe in support of 2014’s Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol (review here), which took tracks from 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) and twisted them in different directions, whether it was mixing out the guitar, adding Hammond B-3, redoing the vocals, pretending it’s 1968, and so on. Monster Magnet‘s last tour in North America — also their first in more than a decade — was late 2013 heralding Last Patrol and wound up being canceled before it was finished owing to illness on the part of frontman Dave Wyndorf. No word on if they’ll tour again in the States, but Athens is the launch point for a month on the road and it’ll be March by the time these guys get home.

The PR wire invites you to let the circus burn:

MONSTER-MAGNET

MONSTER MAGNET – NOW ON TOUR IN EUROPE!

MONSTER MAGNET is Rock ‘n’ Roll at its best, Rock ‘n’ Roll in its strongest propagation, loud & flashy Psychedelic Rock! Right at the raging psychedelic maze: Front man Dave Wyndorf, is a dazzling figure of light and leading figure in personal union.

MONSTER MAGNET are now on tour all over Europe! Germany, Belgium, UK, Sweden, Norway, Denkmark – to name just a few stops! Catch them live on the road & check all upcoming tour dates here:

30.01.2015 GR – Athens / Stage Volume 1
31.01.2015 GR – Thessaloniki / Principal Club Theater
02.02.2015 CH – Lausanne / Les Docks
03.02.2015 DE – Frankfurt / Batschkapp
04.02.2015 DE – München / Backstage
06.02.2015 AT – Vienna / Szene
07.02.2015 CH – Lyss / Kufa
08.02.2015 DE – Oberhausen / Turbinenhalle
10.02.2015 NL – Deventer / Burgerweeshuis
12.02.2015 BE – Antwerp / Trix
13.02.2015 UK – Nottingham / Rock City
14.02.2015 UK – Glasgow / Garage
15.02.2015 UK – London / Electric Ballroom
17.02.2015 DE – Saarbrücken / Garage
18.02.2015 NL – Eindhoven / De Effenaar
20.02.2015 DK – Arhus / Voxhall
21.02.2015 SE – Gothenborg / Sticky Fingers
22.02.2015 NO – Oslo / Parktheatret Scene
23.02.2015 NO – Stavanger / Folken
25.02.2015 DE – Bremen / Schlachthof
26.02.2015 DE – Hannover / Capitol
27.02.2015 DE – Dresden / Reithalle
28.02.2015 NL – Rotterdam / VanNelle Fabriek

For More Info Visit:
www.monstermagnet.net
www.facebook.com/monstermagnet

Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars (2014)

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The Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-20-of-2014-readers-poll-RESULTS-etching-by-maxime-lalanne

It was close for a long time, but in the last week or so, one record pulled ahead to stake a definitive claim on the top spot. Even so, more than the 2013 poll, this was a fun one to watch, three albums duking it out, trading back and forth in the raw votes depending on who happened to submit a list at any given time. In the end, 355 people participated in this year’s poll, which is an average of over 11 per day — there was a significant push at the end — and up from 2013, which now that it’s 2015 will no doubt soon feel like ancient history.

To that end, Happy New Year and huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list to the poll. Even if it was one or two records, the simple fact that you felt it was worth your time to type out the names of bands and albums and take part in this thing is unbelievably gratifying to me. I do a lot of the talking around here, apart from comments and the forum, so to have your participation in this really means a lot to me. It’s nice knowing you give enough of a crap to take part.

You’ll find two lists below. The first, measured in points, is the weighted tally. A 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. After that comes the raw votes, a measure of what caught the most attention along the way.

After the jump, you’ll also find all the lists contributed to the poll — including my own, which seemed fair since I do a lot of reading on this site, mostly to experience shame at the typos and correct them hoping no one else noticed — presented in the order in which they were received. Thank you all again.

Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (560 points)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (404)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (367)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (334)
5. Conan, Blood Eagle (275)
6. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (254)
7. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (240)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (237)
9. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (235)
10. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (230)
11. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (225)
12. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (211)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (202)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (198)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (190)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (188)
17. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (161)
18. John Garcia, John Garcia (156)
19. Bongripper, Miserable (141)
20. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (127)

Honorable mention to:
Goat, Commune (126)
Swans, To be Kind (117)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (116)
Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes (105)
Floor, Oblation (104)
Mothership, II (104)

Stubb, Elephant Tree, Thou and plenty of others also did very well in the voting, but everything else I could find was less than 100 points. Again, it was close for a while between Wo Fat, Electric Wizard and YOB — and Pallbearer wasn’t so far behind them, either — but YOB pulled it out in the end and jumped way in front of everyone else. A lot of number-one votes for Clearing the Path to Ascend, which I can understand completely, since I happened to agree with the position.

On to the raw votes:

Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (138 votes)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (111)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (104)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (89)
5. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (78)
6. Conan, Blood Eagle (72)
7. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (71)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (66)
9. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (65)
10. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (64)
11. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (63)
12. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (60)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (58)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (55)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (52)
16. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (48)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (48)
17. John Garcia, John Garcia (47)
18. Bongripper, Miserable (41)
18. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (41)
19. Goat, Commune (37)
19. Mothership, II (37)
20. Swans, To be Kind (32)

And some honorable mentions:
Dwellers, Pagan Fruit (31)
Floor, Oblation (31)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (31)
Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty (30)
Thou, Heathen (30)
The Well, Samsara (30)

A couple ties here make the raw votes list a little more inclusive, and since it’s not like we’re giving out olympic medals, it didn’t seem fair to count out ties and sacrifice other numbers. The top 20 has 23 entries? Yeah, sounds about right. Again, not much mystery ultimately to who came out on top, but it was a more thrilling race than the final numbers might suggest. Cool to see some differences in placement emerge between the two lists as well, Greenleaf and Brant Bjork doing really well in the weighted results since they obviously inspire some strong support, and a couple of others working their way into the raw votes top 20. I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s been cool putting this together.

About not being a numbers guy: All the lists that came in appear after the jump below. If you find some glaring error in my math, or something seems like it really got enough votes to be included in one or the other, it’s possible I just missed it. I hope you’ll point it out in the comments so that if there is a mistake, I can get on correcting it as soon as possible. Your vigilance is sincerely appreciated.

And thank you again so much for being a part of this readers poll. It’s been a really great experience and I look forward to doing it again come Dec. 2015.

Please find everybody’s list after the jump, and have fun browsing:

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audiObelisk Transmission 043

Posted in Podcasts on December 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

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Since I don’t do theme podcasts or anything, the thoroughly unofficial subtitle of this latest one is “SOME of the Best of 2014.” Truth be told, it’s four hours long and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, so definitely the emphasis should be on “some.” By no means is it meant to be comprehensive, or am I claiming that it’s all the best and the rest sucked or anything like that. But some of the best stuff is here, so, you know, I hope you enjoy.

My intent was to make it three hours long, and then I got there and it just didn’t feel done without another hour’s worth of extended psych jams. That’s an odd habit to have. Could be worse. For what it’s worth, I was thinking of this as a companion for some of the year-end coverage that’s already been posted and is still to come. Some of this was inspired by picks from the Readers Poll, the submissions for which are still open. If you haven’t added your list yet, I’d greatly appreciate it.

And once again, hope you dig it:

First Hour:
YOB, “Nothing to Win” from Clearing the Path to Ascend
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt
The Golden Grass, “Stuck on a Mountain” from The Golden Grass
Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me” from Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol
Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be” from Foundations of Burden
The Skull, “Sick of it All” from For Those Which are Asleep
Electric Wizard, “Time to Die” from Time to Die
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss
Moab, “No Soul” from Billow

Second Hour:
Sleep, “The Clarity” from The Clarity 12”
Mars Red Sky, “Hovering Satellites” from Stranded in Arcadia
Floor, “Rocinante” from Oblation
Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” from Estron
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus
Apostle of Solitude, “Die Vicar Die” from Of Woe and Wounds
Pilgrim, “Away from Here” from II: Void Worship
Blood Farmers, “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Headless Eyes

Third Hour:
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus
Elephant Tree, “Vlaakith” from Theia
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Counting Time” from The Shining One
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower
Joy, “Driving Me Insane” from Under the Spell of Joy
Greenleaf, “Depth of the Sun” from Trails and Passes
Mothership, “Priestess of the Moon” from Mothership II
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe
Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty
Mammatus, “Brain Drain” from Heady Mental

Fourth Hour:
Øresund Space Collective, “Beardlandia” from Music for Pogonologists
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One
The Cosmic Dead, “Fukahyoocastulah” from Split with Mugstar
Montibus Communitas, “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” from The Pilgrim to the Absolute

Total running time: 4:02:57

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 043

 

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audiObelisk Transmission 042

Posted in Podcasts on November 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

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Tomorrow here in the US it is Thanksgiving, which has some questionable origins but in practice is actually one of our less-abominable holidays, with a focus on togetherness, good food, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Today, the day before, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year while people get to wherever they’re going. Even if you don’t manage to find it until after the holiday is over, it seemed only fitting to make a new podcast so that anyone who might want to take it along for the ride would be able to do so.

My head has started to get into year-end wrap-up mode, so don’t be surprised if one or two or three of these bands show up in subsequent “Best Of” coverage. Maybe even four, looking at the list. It’s been a crazy good year, and as it starts to wind its way down and we make our way into the next one, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts and hopefully discovered something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s really the whole idea.

If you’re traveling by road, rail, or air, I wish you a pleasant journey, and even if you’re staying put, the same applies.

First Hour:
Stubb, “Heavy Blue Sky” from Cry of the Ocean
Murcielago, “Way too Far” from Murcielago
Dune, “Of Blade and Carapace” from Aurora Majesty
The Skull, “Send Judas Down” from For Those Which are Asleep
Elephant Tree, “Attack of the Altaica” from Theia
Renate/Cordate, “Laudanum” from Growth
Mothership, “Serpents Throne” from Mothership II
Space Guerrilla, “Event Horizon” from Boundless
Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars
Memnon Sa, “Megalith” from Citadel

Second Hour:
Soldat Hans, “Meine Liebste; Sie Zerbricht Sich” from Dress Rehearsal
Atavismo, “Meeh” from Desintegración
Øresund Space Collective, “Remnants of the Barbonaeum” from Music for Pogonologists

Total running time: 1:53:26

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 042

 

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Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars: Second Launch

Posted in Reviews on November 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

monster-magnet-milking-the-stars

For Monster Magnet fans, there are two things to like about Milking the Stars: The concept and the execution. The long-running New Jersey outfit seemed to be making a turn to come full-circle on 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), bringing in a more psychedelic feel for the first time in over a decade, not quite trying to recapture their brilliance in early albums like 1991’s Spine of God, 1993’s Superjudge and 1995’s Dopes to Infinity, but definitely making a departure from the hard rock sound they’d developed since then on 1998’s landmark Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No, , 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo, and 2010’s Mastermind (review here), their sound becoming more straightforward and — though the 2010 outing was probably the “biggest” they’ve ever come across on tape — increasingly formulaic. Last Patrol boldly turned that progression on its head, daring to brood on songs like “Paradise” and “I Live behind the Clouds” and jamming out righteous wah-soaked space rock on “Last Patrol” and the driving “End of Time.” Particularly for those who’d been longing for such a step from the band, it was the best Monster Magnet outing in 15 years’ time and one of the highlight releases of 2013. With Milking the Stars (out on Napalm Records), the full title of which is Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol, frontman, founder and principal songwriter Dave Wyndorf pushes himself further into satisfying a weirdo trippy impulse, reworking cuts and including material not included on the original Last Patrol to get something new from them and create a record that, even if you didn’t hear the first one, stands on its own, its John Sumrow cover art dogwhistling its companion status to the album before it.

The reason I say the concept should be pleasing to Monster Magnet fans is because what it shows is that Wyndorf — joined at this point in Monster Magnet by guitarists Phil Caivano and Garrett Sweeney, bassist Chris Kosnik (who makes his recorded debut with the band on a couple live bonus tracks), and drummer Bob Pantella — is not only in a place feeling creative enough to take on the material of Last Patrol and give it a thorough screwing with, which is something that’s never been done before in Monster Magnet‘s 25-year history, but also that he’s making it weirder. Some of Milking the Stars‘ cuts, like “End of Time (B-3)” and “I Live behind the Clouds (Roughed up and Slightly Spaced)” don’t depart as much from their original incarnations — though neither will I downplay how much of a game-changer that Hammond is on “End of Time” — but in “No Paradise for Me” Wyndorf takes the moody original to a more open-sounding place and changes the lyrics to more directly address his disappointment with pop modernity: “I guess I’ll have to make up what I want to see.” And so he does. That’s basically what this album is, but that only makes it a more honest work. Opener “Let the Circus Burn” (also the longest cut at 7:26; immediate points) tweaks, slows down and spaces out the original “Last Patrol,” and “Mindless Ones ’68” pulls back on the heavy rocking original for a more garage-rock interpretation, bright lead guitar forward in the mix, tambourine and organ taking the place of snare stomp and a wailing solo. The title-track, “Milking the Stars” was left off Last Patrol and it’s easy enough to speculate why. At 7:26, it would’ve pushed that album to nearly an hour long, and while it has an effective linear build and might’ve bridged a gap between “End of Time” and “Last Patrol” and some of that record’s shorter, more verse/chorus-minded cuts, it makes a better focus cut than secondary player, even if its title can give the idea that the band are simply “milking” their last album for more material — a notion that no doubt occurred to them in picking the title and was taken on with tongue in cheek.

monster-magnet

And as for the execution, while I’m not prepared to say Milking the Stars is a better or worse album than Last Patrol — the two are best considered in league with each other — several of the songs are markedly improved here from their originals. “Hallelujah (Fuzz and Swamp)” even more calls Larman Clamor to mind in its blown-out revivalism, “Stay Tuned (Even Sadder)” lives righteously up to its parenthetical, and the drum track and extra guitar that appear in closer “The Duke (Full on Drums ‘n’ Wah)” give that song a personality beyond what one could’ve expected from the first incarnation. Not only are these particular cuts well conceived, but the reality of the listen proves just as satisfying as the idea, and Milking the Stars works as a whole front-to-back listen, rather than a collection of one-off reinterpretations, like a remix record or something. It’s not that. “Reimagining” sounds ambitious, but it’s as close to the fact of what’s taking place here as anything I can come up with, and works all the better perhaps in conveying the adventurous spirit behind the motivation in making the album in the first place. Last Patrol was a brazen step, but Milking the Stars makes it seem like just the beginning of a new phase in Monster Magnet‘s ongoing evolution. As someone who’s a fan of the band, and a fan of Last Patrol, it’s all the more exciting to think that Wyndorf and company might approach songwriting with such an anything-can-happen creative sensibility a quarter-century on from the group’s start. It makes the prospects for where they might go next all the more vast, considering if they can take on Last Patrol and remold it into Milking the Stars, there’s really no telling where they might go from here. All the better. What seemed like it might’ve been Monster Magnet‘s final round looks instead to have become the catalyst for a new phase in their career, and my only hope is they keep getting weirder from here on out.

Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me”

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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