Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Monster Magnet

Released 1991 on Carolyn
Reviewed by aaroneous, 23/08/2000ce

The experience of listening to this album is exactly like this:

It’s Friday night in some horrifyingly backward and crime infested small American city, Tampa, Florida, Lincoln, Nebraska, or, maybe Flint, Michigan. You and you’re older cousin have gone to see Black Sabbath at the local football stadium/sports complex. During the encore, you reach inside your grimy jean jacket pocket to take a swig of cheap whiskey from a flask, but, instead, you accidentally grab the vial of liquid acid you were going to sell outside the show, and unwittingly drink down it’s entire contents in one doomed gulp. For the rest of the night, one single riff plays over and over in your head, speeding up and slowing down while still droning on and on, as your cousin drives you around the deserted urban wasteland, telling you stories of speed freaks, junkies, and acid heads who never came back, and giving you destructive advice just to freak you out, like “why don’t you take MORE”, and “Get behind the wheel of this car, and drive it straight into a brick wall”, presumably while flashing the interior lights on and off and grinning maniacally from beneath his thin, greasy, prepubescent moustache. Just when you think your brain is about to crawl straight out of your eye sockets, he pulls up to an after hours party, where Motorhead blasts out of two enormous and shredded speakers, and Sabbath fans, in various states of intoxication, mill around telling stories of recent incarcerations while throwing knives at a crucifix made entirely of engine parts. Somehow, you make it home, where, under your serpent infested sheets, you decide that “Everything is crap, and everyone’s a creep” before the sunlight shines through your window, telling you everything, though not exactly OK, is at least not crap.

Monster Magnet have made distilling Hawkwind, Sabbath, and motor-city metal into a lysergic soup of brown acid and bathtub meth their life’s work. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Wyndorf has said in interviews that the band sets out to cultivate the “Altamont vibe”; that is, the negative end of the psychedelic spectrum. He relates stories of his older brother playing Hawkwind in the room upstairs from his to scare him, and says his first memories of hippies were “guys in army jackets who hung out in gas station parking lots and would rip you off for drugs.” Apparently, this image has stuck as his ultimate ideal. The long and the short of it is, don’t play this for anyone’s first trip, and definitely put the kids to bed before putting it on.

There are three songs on this album, the first 30 minutes long, the second - 15, and the third just 3. The first song is one riff, which changes keys every few minutes, with some of the most completely over effected insanity careening throughout it, and the eastern style vocal chanting of Mr. Wyndorf. Delay spirals out of control, speeding up and slowing down, phasing, swirling, and bouncing back and forth between the speakers. Guitar leads bleed, wah, cry, sing, and spew insects and frogs before being buried by still more guitars. Then, Wyndorf starts telling the aforementioned stories. This is truly ghastly stuff, and not for the faint of heart, by any means.

The second song is a speedy Stooges style romp, with a funky breakdown featuring drumming reminiscent of the great Bill Ward. This degrades into a one note jam that lasts a few minutes, during which what sound like distorted whistles feed back in a vast chamber of delay. Then, a wonderful garage song emerges, with a synth string section filling in the cracked spaces. By the time the last song kicks in, all your synapses have completely been fried, and all you can do is lay in awe at the frayed majesty of it all. Dealing with resilience in the face of failure, and set to a dexterous percussion backbone, this song has an eastern flavor, and features Wyndorf singing heartfully rather than screaming or taunting. This is a nice note to end an otherwise emotionally distraught album.

The rest of the Monster Magnet catalog never goes quite this far, but the interested should check out their first album “Spine of God”, in which almost every song has an effected jam part, or ends that way. “Superjudge” is more new metal, but has a few high points, especially the opening track, “Pill Shovel”. Everything comes together on their “Dopes to Infinity” album, and there is some quality songwriting to complement the echo and spew. What I’ve heard of “Powertrip”, I haven’t liked. The production is too slick, and the songs never really go over the top. Recent interviews with Wyndorf feature him admitting that he doesn’t take psychedelics anymore, saying “if I took acid right now, I’d be on the roof of my house screaming ‘I Killed God!!’ or something.” With nothing spiritual to replace it with, his creative weirdness seems to have dried up considerably. I guess that’s what happens when you put a band together to pay homage to psychedelia and metal, and cut the psychedelics out. All you’re left with is metal, and dumb metal at that.

So get “TAB” if you can find it, and pray to the Bull God for an hour. At the end of it, you can tell yourself it was all just a dream, and hug your girlfriend/pillow/or pet closer, happy in the knowledge that your molecular structure is firmly intact, that you have not suddenly become a glass of orange juice, an army of two inch clones, or a pink polka-dotted atom bomb. Just remember, if you have such a pagan love, no such madness can distort your brains. Go ahead and play this album, just don’t play it for your little brother, or he may grow up to outdo it, and that may just create a super hydrogen based reverse implosion in the immediate vicinity of Lemmy Killmeister’s second facial wart, spreading some strange brown puss across the planet, which would then grows larger as it devours everything in its path in it’s mad search energy, finally enveloping the entire universe in its foul and sticky goop. I mean it. That’s exactly what would happen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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