Monster Magnet – “A Better Dystopia” (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Dodging a serious lockdown bullet back in February 2020 having made it back to their native New Jersey following the European “Powertrip” tour, Monster Magnet hunkered down like the rest of the world, although keen not go down an even deeper rabbit hole. As the pandemic took hold and the bat shit crazy cries of ‘Dystopia! Apocalypse! Revolution!’ pervaded the streets and airwaves, frontman Dave Wyndorf knew he’d heard those words before, namely in the music of the late 1960s and early 1970s that he’d grown up listening to. Putting together a playlist of proto-metal, late-era psych and modern garage punk songs, “A Better Dystopia” is Monster Magnet’s first covers record, or maybe I should say ‘bunker’ record, as it’s a totally DIY affair recorded and mixed in drummer Bob Pantella’s Freak Shop Studios, right down to Wyndorf’s recital of a classic monologue by Dave Diamond, an American radio DJ whose programs in those same eras helped popularize many psychedelic and acid rock bands. From Hawkwind to Poo-Bah, along with Dust, Morgen and Table Scraps, the 13 tracks are trademarked by Monster Magnet’s stoner / psych sound of fuzz, trip and groove in every regard, while not taking anything away from the authenticity of those far-out originals. Funkin’ it out to J.D. Blackfoot’s 1969 ‘Epitaph For A Head’, the yanked guitars slide, squeal and wail aplenty as Wyndorf brings on the bad ass mutha street struttin’ lines of ‘…they’ll tuck you in bed and they’ll tell you not to worry none at all, while the visions of dollar signs and threats of war drive sleep from your scotch and water eyeballs…’ – yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about man! Fuzzing in thick with tabla like drums and deep ‘n’ dark vocals à la Jim Morrison on ‘Solid Gold Hell’ by Aussie proto punk rockers The Scientists in 1984 (who apparently were the first ever band to be described as grunge), Monster Magnet definitely do a righteous deed in injecting some power into the heavy groove of the original, while Wyndorf’s vocals do justice to Kim Salmon’s own enduring legacy. Adding a much-needed fuller sound to Jerusalem’s ‘When The Wolf Sits’, whose self-titled debut was produced by none other than Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, Monster Magnet even in their DIY passion have overcome the demo like quality of the 1972 original, while tripping it out more in fine style and really bringing out the hard rock grooves from this British band who, incidentally, are still going! In cutting one of the wildest singles of the 1960s, it’s easy to see how ‘It’s Trash’ by The Cavemen would make a big impression on Monster Magnet, and as the catchy groove pumps in the raw energy along with wild psych guitar breaks wailing away, Wyndorf screams bravely although it’s hard to match the original untamed vocals of Cavemen bassist Bob Jabour. Going well beyond a covers release into another Monster Magnet hottie of its own, I thoroughly enjoyed this insightful delve into past obscurities, although I’m probably now gonna be outta pocket tracking down these rarities!