You have to wonder what Dave Wyndorf, a man who thinks only in widescreen and judges riffs via the Richter scale, would have made of a UK music weekly’s recent declaration of pop’s current superiority over rock. Hopefully he would have pushed his way past the cages of dancing girls, strutted over to the gilt-encrusted, floor-length mirror (at least this is how Classic Rock imagines it, chez Wyndorf) and with the most knowing of smiles, thought to himself: Baby, as long as there is Monster Magnet, rock is king.
People haven’t always known what to make of New Jersey’s resident Space Lord or his band, though. Mastermind is MM’s eighth studio album in a 21-year career that has seen them flirt less often with the mainstream than perhaps their supporters would have liked.
Of course it didn’t help that from 1992’s retro-sludge stoner-psych debut, the slightly ahead-of-its-time Spine Of God onwards, they had set themselves up as rock’n’roll’s perennial misfits: too hard rockin’ for the underground, too sardonic for the mainstream and on occasion, just too much, period. Even 1998’s amped up monolith to extravagance, Powertrip, took them only to gold (compared this with former tourmates Soundgarden’s 20 million sales, which must surely rankle with Wyndorf). Add to that a much- publicised prescription drugs overdose in 2006 and some uneven output (2007’s 4-Way Diablo a particular case in point) and there seemed little left to say.
But this album feels different from the get go. As Hallucination Bomb and Bored With Sorcery thunder out of the speakers with a hammer-of-Thor intensity and tar-thick groove, something has lit the 53-year-old Wyndorf’s fire this time round (‘When they pulled me out of my plane crash/ I told them I was ready to go,’ he hollers on the latter).
It’s not that MM haven’t drawn from a variety of influences before, but there’s an essential momentum propelling proceedings here, regardless of whether it’s dark symphony of The Titan Who Cried Like A Baby, the filthy rock sprawl of the title track, the quiet, acoustic glory of Time Machine or the beautiful 60s lilt of closer All Outta Nothin’.
Whether or not Mastermind sees them reclaiming lost ground, for a rock scene in dire need of some standard bearers who aren’t simply cashing in on former glories, it’s provided both a glowing redress and proof that here, rock is always king.