Monster Magnet - "Powertrip"
(A&M Records 1998, 31454 0908 2)
From Aural Innovations #4 (October 1998)
Six albums into their career, three so far on A&M, and the possible numerological arrangement conspicuously fits perfectly with the commercially viable post-modern, hedonistic freakrock of the future that this New Jersey band delivers, interestingly bringing underground acid rock onto corporate airwaves in the 90's without selling out creatively, yet still hopefully making the band lots of bucks. For those who instinctively equate a successful 90's hardrock band (in broad terms) with the standard alterna-grunge fair or gender-bender industrial shock, know ye that Monster Magnet are in a league of their own, operating beyond the unconscious media symptoms of zeitgeist, having evolved into something unique, and, arguably, outshining their moderately successful and arguably similar 'stoner metal' or 'space sludge' peers such as Fu Manchu, Sleep, or Cathedral, and arguably packing more originality than all of them combined (possibly excluding the disbanded Kyuss).
And now, self-made psychedelic rock deities Dave Wyndorf, Ed Mundel, Joe Calandra and John Kleiman descend upon us once again, this time via the luridly packaged "Powertrip". Despite their move away from the deep-space-miasma of their previous album, "Dopes To Infinity" (1995), or the extended freakouts of the early material, leaning more towards their Detroit-infused power rock side, they still strongly retain the psychedelic edge and the 70's and occasional 60's hook-sensibilities. The CD opens with the heavy "Crop Circle", a driven, spacey slab of cosmic self descriptive, while the equally awesome title/single track, and "Temple of Your Dreams", both are instant classics in similar mold with a fair bit of advice too! The first single "Space Lord" is more of a conventional metal tune with a spacy break and more SF like lyrics, but not all that representative of the albums' overall style. The eerie "Baby Götterdammerung" becomes another example of Wyndorf decoding himself with Marvel comic-book cosmology. One can also hear an uncanny resemblance to Hawkwind's "Time We Left" guitar riff on "Bummer", and though their heavy influence (Monster Magnet have recorded "Brainstorm" more than once) is more subdued on this album than last, it is still very strong in places. "19 Witches" takes on an odd Morricone-like western-movie flavor without seeming out of place, with a very spacey break, and followed by yet another future classic, "3rd Eye Landslide" - where else but in the world of Monster Magnet can a phrase like that be sung with complete authority! "See You In Hell" is a sinister suburban tale set to a groovy Farfisa organ driven 60's pop tune. And we get the old bad-trip standard "Tractor" updated too, not sounding too different from the 1990 version. From here on the lumbering "Atomic Clock" and the spacey horror atmospherics of "Goliath And The Vampires" carry us onward, but the disappointingly trite "Your Lies Become You" suddenly brings this otherwise perfect hour way too far 'down', with its earthy twang, lazy bossanova-like shuffle and clichéd lyrics. Still, it doesn't detract much from the overall charm or staying power, gaining visual bonus points for the hidden chaos symbol and gratuitously Satanic marketing tactics.
A few space-fans might not be as attracted to this album as their previous offerings, though if you are into The Stooges and/or Hawkwind and psychedelic and/or good music in general, it's an essential purchase. Also recommended is the "Space Lord" single which has a great version of "Kick Out The Jams" and the epic, driven, "Big God".
Reviewed by Christian Mumford