11 Years Ago: Monster Magnet Get Reborn on ‘Monolithic Baby!’
When Monster Magnet’s travels across the Milky Way galaxy brought them back to planet Earth in May of 2004, the group’s resident genius and top weirdo, Dave Wyndorf, knew their sixth studio album, Monolithic Baby!, would have very few supporters in its corner. That's because recent years had witnessed seismic changes on most every front – personal, business, musical – for these retro-rock revivalists of all things space, psych, acid and classic rock.
For starters, Magnet’s longtime label, A&M Records, which had helped them break through with 1998’s Powertrip LP and its rock radio smash, “Space Lord,” had been absorbed into Interscope (along with Geffen Records) in 1999, depriving the band of hundreds of loyal staffers who had believed in them throughout the ‘90s. And although Wyndorf and company were allowed to crank out another album, the fan-polarizing God Says No in early 2011, promotional support was (in the band's opinion) quite lacking, with their new backers seemingly going through the motions until the moment was ripe for dropping Monster Magnet altogether.
This setback proved to be the final straw for Magnet’s long-serving rhythm section of bassist Joe Calandra and drummer John Kleinman, who cashed in their chips and retired to their home planet of New Jersey. But for Wyndorf, though he was well into his forties by now, there was no parole from rock and roll, and no other course but to carry on. Nor was there any shortage of independent record companies eager to offer his band a new contract, and it was German hard rock specialists SPV who were eventually chosen to provide the launch pad for Monster Magnet’s next career phase.
So after recruiting bassist Jim Baglino and drummer Michael Wildwood (soon replaced by Bob Pantella for touring purposes), Wyndorf, lead guitar god Ed Mundell and rhythm guitarist Phil Caivano got back to work in the fall of 2005. And the outcome on Monolithic Baby! revealed a revitalized, fire-breathing Monster Magnet, ready to dispense with the heavy handed production and oft ill-advised experiments of God Says No and strip down their sound to its familiarly aggressive, in-your-face, though still eclectic manifesto.
(Editor's note: I'm not going to let one more word about 'God Says No' pass before advising people to check out the hypnotic, storming "My Little Friend.")
Scorching Monolithic Baby! cuts like “Slut Machine,” “Supercruel” and “The Right Stuff” left nothing but urgent heavy rock carnage out on the killing floor; hypnotic mid-paced grooves like “Radiation Day,” “Monolithic” and “Ultimate Everything” chaperoned listeners through their scary acid trips; and “There’s No Way Out of Here” and “Too Bad” added acoustic guitars for surfing on a tsunami, destination: terminal wipe-out!
"Radiation Day" also found Wyndorf absolutely torching the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries for turning people into listless zombies: "They got a pill that'll guarantee you a hard one / They got a box where you can always play / So don't strain your brain now, brother, your mammy's back in town / Just drink her milk and it'll be OK..."
Ever the provocateur, Wyndorf offset the alluring psychedelic flourishes of “On the Verge” with positively blasphemous lyrics before saying his piece about the looming second war on Iraq with the ultra-cynical “CNN War Theme,” and then informing fans he had nothing to apologize for, vis-à-vis God Says No with the bubbling electronics heard on “Master of Light.” Oh, but the biggest irony of all was the unleashing of perhaps the stone-cold greatest hit-that-wasn’t of Monster Magnet’s long career in the irresistible “Unbroken (Hotel Baby)” -- doomed to be kept off the airwaves as the result of a series of unapologetic F-bombs.
All this left the Magnet faithful satiated with everything they’d come to expect from one of ‘90s rock’s most underrated propositions, and relieved that all the trials and tribulations of recent years had failed to topple the mighty talent that is Dave Wyndorf. Alas, what label suits and clueless mainstream music fans could not accomplish, a nearly fatal overdose on prescription medication nearly did, sending Magnet’s leader to the hospital in February of 2006. But, being the stoner rock Lazarus that he is, everyone’s favorite space lord duly recovered to fight back, yet again, in 2007, when he and Monster Magnet’s unleashed their next studio triumph, 4-Way Diablo.
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