Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Superjudge

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Superjudge (1993)

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In 1993, they were about freaking the fuck out. They broke out some sitar on closer “Black Balloon,” and backed by the rhythm section of bassist¬†Joe Calandra and drummer¬†Jon Kleiman, captured fuzzy forward drive on “Twin Earth” with a swing that even a quarter-century after the fact bleeds its swagger from the speakers. The power of¬†Superjudge isn’t just in its atmosphere — though there’s plenty of that in the layers of effects and kitchen-sink instrumentation used — it’s in the band. With¬†Spine of God, the record’s brilliant. Utterly brilliant. For the title-track alone, it should be taught in middle schools across the planet as to how you rock and roll in order to expand minds. What¬†Superjudge did was to take that studio vibe and show how it could be sustainable, monster magnet superjudgeshow how it could be done on stage, and begin to solidify it as a developing creative process. As much of a haze seemed to surround the title-track, or the watery acoustics in “Cage Around the Sun,” which followed, with its percussion, Eastern inflection and sitar drone, there was a straightforward, structured undercurrent to the material. That was true on some of¬†Spine of God as well, but¬†Superjudge moved the balance ever so slightly. In its aforementioned cover of¬†Hawkwind and take on¬†Howlin’ Wolf-via-Cactus in “Evil,” it drew a line directly to ’70s vibes in a way that was an aberration for the era, and even in the subsequent blowout “Stadium” or the ultra-hairy “Face Down,” it demonstrated the songwriting modus that would become¬†Monster Magnet‘s own all the more over time.

But¬†Superjudge is more than a bridge from¬†Spine of God to Dopes to Infinity, and its 11 tracks hold up brilliantly to the passage of time. The backbeat of “Brainstorm.” The swirl and cosmic declarations of “Elephant Bell.” The raw tonality of “Twin Earth.”¬†Superjudge continues to read like a blueprint for how to do heavy psychedelia and make it rock. Like if¬†The MC5¬†and¬†The Stooges¬†decided they wanted to go¬†Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Maybe the cover art tells the whole story. If you look at the background, it’s trippy and colorful and the logo and title are all “I’m gonna eat a mountain of pills,” but then you look at that picture of the band’s kinda-mascot, the Bullgod. He’s pissed. There’s an aggression there. It’s mean.¬†Superjudge has that intense side to it. It’s not always what’s up front, because the record is still dynamic and it goes any number of places in its songs, but that clenched-teeth, ring-through-the-septum immediacy can’t be faked. It’s either in there or not, and one of the most powerful aspects of¬†Superjudge is that at any given moment, it might absolutely explode in your face. I don’t care how laid back “Cyclops Revolution” sounds at the outset, it still caps with the line, “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

That component in¬†Monster Magnet would help them for years be wrongly classified as so many were as a metal band. True enough they were heavy — still are — but metal? Come on. Even¬†Mastermind, which was about as big-of-tone as they’ve been interested in getting to-date, wasn’t really metal. On¬†Superjudge, they’re a psychedelic heavy rock band. They’d move on from the lysergic elements over the course of¬†Powertrip and¬†God Says No, but in the change from¬†Mastermind to 2013‚Äôs¬†Last Patrol¬†(review here), they brought back some of those weirdo impulses, and pushed them further in the screw-around-with-past-work of 2014 and 2015’s¬†Milking the Stars¬†(review here)¬†and¬†Cobras and Fire¬†(review here) — redux versions of¬†Last Patrol and¬†Mastermind, respectively, that only emphasized¬†Monster Magnet‘s ability and willingness to do whatever the hell they wanted at any given time. See also 2018’s¬†Mindfucker¬†(review here), which, in case you missed it, was called¬†Mindfucker. Take that.

Aside from their hailing from my beloved Garden State and being the stewards of the Mid-Atlantic heavy underground in a way that New York — nifty though it is — was always too punk rock to be,¬†Monster Magnet went a long way toward defining themselves on¬†Superjudge, and it remains an album that shows just how on their own plane they were at the time. Fortunately, that is something that has continued to be the case throughout their career.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Okay. We’re there. Next week my top 30 of the year goes up. Blamo. This weekend on Gimme Radio, ‘The Obelisk Show’ also has a kind-of-sort-of-some-of-the-best-of-2018 thing going. Really, that’s what it’s called. Monster Magnet are on it. You should listen. Sunday, 7PM Eastern. On the internet.

Also next week, a review of the Mansion album, which rules. I guess that’s the short version. Stay tuned for the long one. Also Deep Space Destructors, a couple snazzy video premieres, a bunch of news I need to catch up on, and all that good stuff.

Thanks for reading that 100-album Quarterly Review if you did. My desktop still has a bunch of records on it, but it was good to get through that stuff. Some of it had been waiting a while. I hope you found something you dug. I did.

I’d love to stick around and bum everyone out by bitching about whatever, but the truth is I’ve got a fucking ton of writing to do — a lineup announcement for Freak Valley that will have already been posted by the time this is and liner notes for the Elder PostWax release — so you’ll pardon me if I check out and get to it. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget the forum and radio stream and merch and year-end poll.

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Friday Full-Length: Humble Pie, Smokin’

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Humble Pie, Smokin’ (1972)

Good times had by all. And by all, I mean everybody. Some records just don’t take no for an answer, and that’s¬†Humble Pie‘s 1972 LP,¬†Smokin, all the way. The UK heavy rockers’ fifth full-length, it was also the first after guitarist¬†Peter Frampton split, only to be¬†replaced by¬†Clem Clempson¬†(Colosseum) in the lineup alongside guitarist/vocalist/founder¬†Steve Marriott (Small Faces), bassist/vocalist¬†Greg Ridley (Spooky Tooth) and drummer¬†Jerry Shirley. It’s also unquestionably their biggest album, released by¬†A&M Records and powered by the landmark single “30 Days in the Hole,” which opens side B, but of course it’s a far richer offering when taken front to back than that ultra-hook can fully convey, and whether it’s the guest spot¬†Stephen Stills puts in on organ and vocals for “Hot and Nasty” — which lives up to its name — or the driving heavy rock and roll of closer “Sweet Peace and Time,”¬†Smokin’ is a classic through and through in performance, songwriting, and vibe. Like I said, good times had by all.

Like a lot of acts¬†of the era, particularly 1970-1973,¬†Humble Pie were taken with a post-Cream blues sensibility, but they cleaned up the boogie with a slice of funk, as one can plainly hear on cuts like “The Fixer” — a Marriott original;¬†compare to¬†Cactus‘ slowed down take on “Long Tall Sally,” released the year before — or the ultra-friendly¬†Eddie Cochran cover “C’mon Everybody,” both of which appear on the first half of the record. One can debate whether or not “You’re so Good¬†for Me,” with its churchgoing acoustic blues foundation, piano and underlying rhythmic swing, was anything that¬†Parliament hadn’t already been doing for three years at that point, but¬†Humble Pie would hardly be the first of the English rock¬†set to borrow from American black culture — or, for that matter, the American set, or any other — and the twanging context of “Old Time Feeling,” the jam on¬†the¬†Junior Walker cover “Road Runner” and the bluesy sprawl of “I Wonder,”¬†Smokin‘¬†could hardly be accused of being one-dimensional in that regard.¬†Marriott‘s interplay with background singers in “30 Days in the Hole” is likewise an aspect drawn out of soul and R&B, but¬†Humble Pie marry it to rock heft and impact in a way that would help shape the model an entire generation of acts followed.

The band continued for a long time after¬†Smokin’, with various lineups, various players taking control of the name, and so on. When¬†Steve Marriott died in a house fire in 1991,¬†Greg Ridley held the reins on their by-then formidable legacy, and after he died of pneumonia in 2003,¬†Jerry Shirley toured with a lineup as¬†Humble Pie and derivations thereof as well.¬†When the¬†Smokin’ incarnation of¬†Humble Pie split in 1975,¬†Clempson hooked up with¬†Cozy Powell (Jeff Beck,¬†Black Sabbath, etc.) in¬†Strange Brew and went on to do film work and play backing¬†a whole swath of distinguished acts and solo artists from the era, be it¬†Jack Bruce or¬†Bob Dylan.

As always, I hope you enjoy. I’ve wanted to close out a week with¬†Smokin’¬†for a long time, and as it’s¬†Universal at this point who owns the label group to which¬†A&M Records belongs, the album rarely stays on YouTube long. But even when it gets removed, the record’s been reissued more times than I can count, so it’s not like it’s not readily accessible, and hell, if you’re reading this, you probably own a copy already anyway. So just go grab it and put it on. And again, enjoy.

Quick week. Needed one. Not free of stress by any stretch of the imagination, but could be worse.¬†The Patient Mrs. and I put our townhouse on the market this week. Monday we had a photographer in to take pictures.¬†You can see our collectible plate with Worf from¬†Star Trek: The Next Generation in the kitchen shot (because yes, it hangs in the kitchen) and my¬†Candlemass promotional wall hanging for their 2005 self-titled reunion album in the office, but other than that, the place looks good.¬†I take no credit for any of it.¬†The Patient Mrs. took the idea and ran with it and basically the plan is to see what we can get for the place before we decide if we’re actually going to move. If we do go anywhere, it’ll be south a bit, probably to Rhode Island if we can, or otherwise near the border. We can just inch our way toward living in Connecticut (the dream) one domicile at a time for the next 35 years. That’ll be fine.

Open house on Sunday, if you’re free. Someone’s coming in this morning to clean, so hopefully by then the place won’t be re-covered in dog hair.

Before I get to next week’s stuff — there’s a lot of it — let me just say that if you didn’t get to check out the¬†Zaum album stream that went up yesterday, you should do so. I turned 35 this week and every year I decide to write about something special on my birthday to treat myself, and this year I wrote about¬†Zaum on the day before the post went up as my little present to me. So yeah, if you haven’t dug into that, obviously I think it’s worth your time.

Also had a blast writing the¬†Asteroid review that went up this morning, so there’s that as well.

Okay, next week. Of course it’s subject to change, but here’s the current plan:

Monday: Full album stream and review for the new Albez Duz.
Tuesday: A¬†Devil to Pay album review and a¬†Droids Attack video/audio premiere that’s going to be really cool.
Wednesday: A full stream and review of the new Scissorfight EP.
Thursday: A one-two combo review of new stuff from Mos Generator and a video premiere and big news from Geezer.
Friday: Pending, obviously, but right now I’ve got a review of the solo debut from¬†Magnus Pelander of¬†Witchcraft.

That’s what’s slated as of today. Could shift around some. I’ve already pushed that¬†Pelander review back considerably.

Any video gamers out there? I bought myself a tablet last weekend (I guess¬†that was actually the birthday present to myself; got a Samsung one on the cheap) and have been playing¬†Final Fantasy V on it as I’ve never actually played that one and IV is my favorite game of all time and¬†VI is an ultra-classic as well. They’ve got¬†Final Fantasy XV coming out next month and I’m considering preordering a PS4 Pro to play it. Anyway, just some nerd¬†stuff that has me excited. If you’re down, awesome. If not, sorry for the aside.

My mother and sister’s son are coming north tomorrow to spend the day and stay over to Sunday, so lots going on this weekend between that and the open house. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great one. Stay safe and have fun and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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 which 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, precisely because of that memorable songcraft 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 help¬†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 and 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¬†H√łstsabbat, and will keep you posted on how that goes.

In the meantime, thank you for reading. Please have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Cortez and Borracho to Release Split 7″ April 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Obviously the gag here is “no foolin’,” right? Well there it is. On April 1, Cortez and Borracho are set to pull a fast one on the universe. The Boston and D.C. natives have teamed up for a new split single on AM Records. For Cortez, this will be the first new material to come from the band since the 2012 release of their self-titled debut full-length (review here) and their first outing to feature their current five-piece lineup, whereas the riff-riding trio Borracho seem to be wasting no time in continuing the momentum of 2013’s sophomore outing, Oculus (review here), which was one of last year’s best records. Both bands contribute one song — Cortez has “Vanishing Point” while Borracho offers “Know My Name” — and the vinyl will be pressed in an edition of 500 in black as well as translucent purple or green.

“Vanishing Point” brings a different balance for Cortez‘s sound. Adding another player will do that, I suppose, but even more than just having Alasdair Swan‘s guitar to give Scott O’Dowd room to stretch out lead-wise — note that bassist Jay Furlo matches him note for note in the pre-solo lead section — the two seem to trade off before coming together for some quick harmonies before getting back to the motor-push of the verse, punctuated by Jeremy “How’s Your Elbow?” Hemond‘s snare and given an apex in large part thanks to his fills. The shift in overall feel can be heard too in Matt Harrington‘s vocals, which come through deeper in the mix than on the self-titled, given a sense of space through present-but-not-overdone reverb.

As Borracho continue to establish themselves as a trio, they seem to be doing so at the expense of no fullness of sound. Their “Know My Name” is just about a full minute longer than Cortez‘s track at 4:40, but that’s still pretty short for the three-piece overall. Either way, the time is well spent. Over an oozingly thick, rolling groove in Tim Martin‘s bass and Mario Trubiano‘s drums — not to mention his own guitar — vocalist Steve Fisher seems to be more confident in his approach, switching from cleaner verses to a throatier, gruff take for the chorus. A descending transition is put to good use, and as ever, Borracho sound right at home dug into a steady middle pace that shows off the meat of their tones. They make a good match for the speedier work of Cortez.

Both bands have a slew of notable appearances coming up. Cortez will play the lead-in spot for the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (info here) this May, whereas Borracho head to Desertfest London in late April (info here). The split will be out by then, but it’s available now too to preorder through Cortez‘s Bandcamp and Borracho‘s Bandcamp both, as well as AM Records‘ Bandcamp. A little friendly competition never hurt. It’s also streaming at either page and on the player below. Enjoy:

Cortez & Borracho, Vanishing Point/Know My Name Split 7″

Cortez on Bandcamp

Borracho on Bandcamp

AM Records on Bandcamp

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Borracho Release Oculus on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

You gotta give it to Borracho for going all out with the vinyl version of their second album, Oculus (review here). Not only is it available in a limited LP edition of 300, but those 300 copies are available through three separate labels on three separate continents and in three separate colors. And hey, there are three dudes in the band! Do you think it could mean something? Whether intentional or not, the fact that the record is out in physical form after being such a digital delight throughout the second half of this year comes as good news for the band and their growing number of followers, who are that much less likely to have to worry about international shipping charges upon picking up a copy.

Borracho sent the announcement down the PR wire:

Oculus LP now available!

Capital City riffers Borracho today release their latest heavy slab Oculus on three gorgeous, limited edition colors of 12″ vinyl ‚ÄĒ 100 copies each on No Balls Records transparent yellow, AM Records purple, and Strange Magic Records blue/green. The collaboration between three labels on three continents extends the release’s availability onto the Asian continent, in addition to North America and Europe. Check out the LP trailer, shot and directed by Deuce to 7, featuring album closer “I‚Äôve Come for it All.”

The record is now available from the band’s Bandcamp page, with an immediate download, and from each label in their respective territory.

The band will celebrate the launch of the vinyl edition of Oculus at Port City Brewing Company’s Heavy Metal Night V, December 14 at The Pinch in Washington DC. They’ve brewed up another super limited batch of Borracho Smokin’ Brown Ale, and’s Metal Chris and Port City’s Will Cook will be spinning the best metal tunes of 2013.

For more information on the band, reviews, and music, visit their website at

Borracho, Oculus Vinyl Trailer

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