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Monster Magnet
Last Patrol Joe Daly , November 21st, 2013 11:59

A funny thing happened on the way to the punk bar - the stoner rock movement was born. In the early 90s, in the lawless frontier known as the suburbs of New Jersey, journeyman songwriter Dave Wyndorf conceived Monster Magnet as a giant “FO” to the local punks, whose collective raison d’etre seemed the violent and sustained rejection of all things arena rock. Purely to take the piss-at least at the outset - Wyndorf and a loosely-knit band of instrument-playing record store employees descended upon the beer-sludged stages of Jersey punk clubs, unleashing ponderous sets of Iommi-flavoured grooves pinned against a lyrical backdrop of aliens, monsters and of filthy, nasty sex. Much to Wyndorf’s delight, the punks were not remotely amused.

Yet while those early audiences might not have embraced this unapologetic celebration of boozed-up parking lot anthems, in Monster Magnet, Wyndorf had found a thrilling new vehicle for channeling his emotional output through a prism of 70s metal, comic books and Roger Corman movies. Monster Magnet were not the first or the only act to tap into these deliciously perverse rivers of puerile fantasy, but sheathing his couplets in hallucinogenic hyperbole and fustian east coast swagger, Wyndorf spun manic and unforgettable tales of paranoia, sex and world domination. Often within the same song.

The secret ingredient in Monster Magnet however, was neither the Blue Cheer fuzziness nor the obtuse sci-fi themes, but the band’s enthralling brew of old school metal laced with generous doses of 60s psychedelia, particularly within their early output, which chronicled some dizzying forays into the druggy netherworld of psychedelic rock. Monster Magnet would survive lineup changes, the rise and fall of Cobain and for Wyndorf, a near-fatal descent into addiction before rising from their own sticky sweet ashes with 2007’s magnificent 4-Way Diablo, which saw the band renew their commitment to Sabbath-inspired riffage, as well as to early psych and garage rock, with the mix weighted, as always, most heavily towards the metal.

It would be 2010’s Mastermind that betrayed the band’s first lack of inspiration. A polished and generally unremarkable effort, Wyndorf would later concede that the album sorely lacked the jagged menace of earlier releases, due in no small part to an unhealthy dependence on ProTools. While Mastermind would yield one of the band’s finest ever tracks in 'Gods and Punks', a disappointing sense of restraint pervaded, leaving open the question of how much creative petrol still splashed around in the tank.

Monster Magnet’s newest release, Last Patrol, answers that question both affirmatively and decisively with their most ambitious campaign in a decade - a sprawling celebration of fretboard psychotropics and spectral acoustic ballads that see the band subtly tipping the balance from chest-beating metal salvos to more nuanced, slow-burning fare like the spellbinding opener, 'I Live Behind The Clouds'.

Of course this is Monster Magnet and although longtime guitarist Ed Mundell has left the band, Last Patrol offers a trio of scorching speed-limit-dusters in 'Mindless Ones', 'Hallelujah' and 'Three Kingfishers', a sublime cover of the classic song by Donovan, the poster boy for 60s flower-draped psychedelia. Notwithstanding these blistering, groove-heavy assaults, the truly captivating ideas are those colorful melodic snippets snugly woven into the paisley tapestries of downtempo epics such as 'Paradise', 'Stay Tuned' and bonus track 'One Dead Moon'.

Under ideal circumstances this album is best enjoyed at 3 a.m. with the listener alone in a dark room, on their back and staring at the ceiling (with or without chemical assistance). More richly-nuanced than Mastermind and far trippier than 4-Way Diablo, Last Patrol sees the elder statesmen of stoner rock back at the very top of their game.