Archive: 4-Way Diablo

Monster Magnet
4-Way Diablo
Rock/Stoner Rock/Psych. Rock

Every so often I'll re-post a relevant review from a previous era of this project. This is one. 

If Dave Wyndorf came over to your house, one of three things could happen. First, and most likely, he would introduce you to a number of women who, despite being at your place, eating your food and drinking your liquor, would never speak to you again. If you were blocking their way to the bathroom, they would stare at you until you got out of their way. You're just not as cool as Dave, no matter how hospitable you are.

The second thing that could happen, equally possible, would be a series of unexplainable, infinitely beautiful personal experiences achieved with the aid of a number of mood altering substances. At the end of what you will come to call the most important night of your life, you will make Dave a massive breakfast and send him on his way with your eternal thanks.

The third possibility is that Dave will make it to your house only to collapse on your couch seconds after arriving. He'd sleep for 10 hours before waking, step on your cat on the way to the bathroom, use your cell phone to call your girlfriend and leave her his number, grab your last beer on his way out the door and peel out of your driveway in a lime green muscle car of doom, giving your neighbor the finger for good measure. He'd never take off his sunglasses - you'd never see his eyes. For this blessing you will count yourself lucky.

MM is Wyndorf's baby, and from the its earliest releases his personality has been sown throughout the band's catalog. Part cock-rock power-trip, part psych/space-rock odyssey and part emotional bloodletting, MM is as much a reflection on Wyndorf's personality and lifestyle as it is a rock band. He is lyricist, emotional center, and creative force. He is a frontman, through and through, as inseparable from the band he leads as your head is from your neck. Seriously. And in a landscape short on rock die-hards and long on wannabes, Wyndorf represents all that is good and righteous in the world of rock. Doubt it? He didn't even change his name. Look up Gene Simmons' real name. Better or worse than Wyndorf?

4-Way Diablo is a good, well-paced rock album that will take up more than its fair share of time in my CD player in the coming months. The stoner-rock influence is evident, but not as played up as previous efforts. The loping rhythm of the title track followed by the straight-ahead rock of "Wall of Fire" open things up, and with the exception of the final track ,("Little Bag of Gloom"), are the only songs under four minutes. "Gloom" is a simple song, backed by what sounds like a Casio organ. In between we're treated to a range of rock songs, including a cover of the Rolling Stone's "2000 Light Years from Home."

By far my favorite MM songs are the slower, mid-tempo tracks. These also tend to be the songs where the psych/stoner/space rock influences are most apparent. "Cyclone", "I'm Calling You" and the instrumental "Freeze and Pixillate" fit the bill nicely for anybody seeking a smoother rock experience with a hint of exploration. "Solid Gold" is the standout track, and like some other MM efforts, ("Third Alternative" from Dopes to Infinity and the title track from Spine of God come to mind) is also the longest. MM seems to flourish when it comes to long-form rock songs, never having to resort to the single-chord-jam-with- accompanying- 2-minute-solo to round things out. They may be long, but the songs never come off as self-indulgent.

This is a rock album, and a good one. One man's inspiration and passion is on display here, and it works. You probably won't reach any new and wonderful conclusions about yourself and why you're on the planet from listening, but so what? Give over to Dave what is rightly his and follow the glittering path to rock salvation. Purpose in service, rockers, purpose in service.


Monster Magnet
Napalm Records
Rock/Stoner Rock/Pysch. Rock 

This is their best effort since Powertrip (1998), and nobody who isn't already a fan will give a shit. This is a shame, because Wyndorf and Co. have managed to produce the unholiest of unicorns - a solid rock record. 

My love for Monster Magnet is as near to unconditional as I can manage. They're fucking fun, and they make fun albums. Lately I've noticed quite a few music writers and reviewers claiming that if you don't like [insert cheesy/dessicated glam, pop metal act] then you "hate fun." Bullshit. If all fun is is a post-ironic irony, a wink and a nod while raising the horns, you can fucking have it. When I say this album is fun, I mean I like it. You know, like it like it. 

Monster Magnet have always written good songs, and there's plenty of gold bracketing Powertrip on Dopes to Infinity (1995) and God Says No (2001). The slow rock burn of "Negasonic Teenage Warhead" and lazy swing of  "Dead Christmas" mark Dopes a rock record, while the psych. rock influence on display in God comes through loud and clear on "Kiss of the Scorpion." It's difficult to consider these albums second efforts. They'd stand out in any band's catalog. But they lack the power and authority of the band's most successful album. Mastermind, however, does not. Monster Magnet has always borne their influences proudly, no more so than here and, like Powertrip, they are seamlessly woven throughout. This is no compilation of radio-friendly hits and B-side filler. This is a fucking record. 

Mastermind  is an exercise in efficiency and form. Nearly every song opens with a lone bass line or riff before the rest of the band kicks in. There are obligatory solos and predictable bridges. The parts are common, but the effect is not. A kind of pop culture haruspex, Wyndorf butchers American history, myth and popular culture and interprets the remains. It's familiar and a little comforting. The Fantastic Four, and the Apollo program are invoked. "Perish in Fire" cribs a line from the Who, and "All Outta Nothin" calls on the Beatles.

The first four tracks are straight, mid-tempo rock. Single "Gods and Punks" anchors the introduction before the album shifts gears with the first of three anti-ballads, "The Titan who Cried like a Baby." The second, "Time Machine," is better, and helps break off mid-album sleeper tracks "Mastermind," "100 Million Miles," and "Perish in Fire." Things end strong with "All Outta Nothin." The only real lull in the whole collection is "When the Planes fall from the Sky," a good song that disrupts the flow just a little bit. Fans who spring for the limited edition get two bonus tracks for their support, "Watch me Fade" and "Fuzz Pig." Both could easily have found homes on the album proper, with the second representing the band's most dissonant work here.

Rockers should love this album. Metal heads should love this album (with the likely exception of dudes who won't shut the fuck up about how awesome Camel were). Waning, cubicle-bound heshers could rock this at their desk while surfing Craigslist for IROC parts. Play this for five year old kids and watch them proto-mosh on the carpet. Play it the car and get anywhere faster without even trying. Spin it at a party on repeat and count the hours before anyone complains, and then kick them the fuck out.   

In some ways, Monster Magnet are a victim of their own success. Powertrip was a ballsy rock album with crossover appeal, building on their already significant reputation with heavy airplay and a slot in MTV's diminishing video rotation. When following efforts failed to meet exceedingly high expectations, fans and music execs drifted away. No wonder really that the last three albums have all been released by European indies. But I can't help but think things have all worked out for the better. Powertrip rightly stood out as a singular, coherent piece. Until now. Mastermind may not be better, but it's certainly as-good-as. And that's real good.