Monster Magnet: Reissues

Stoner space rockers’ major-label years revisited.

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Dave Wyndorf’s drug-damaged space cadets arguably did as much as Stoner metal pioneers Kyuss to establish that genre’s fuzz-caked, acid-tinged sound.

Yet their retro stylings – from Wyndorf’s Jason King moustache to the kitschy, demon-fancying sleeve art – meant they were never quite as uber-cool as Josh Homme and co, and their evident love for some of rock history’s more outre flights of poetic fancy meant they would never fit in with grunge’s po-faced indie ethics.

Still, Monster Magnet didn’t need a scene to carry them to success, and the quartet of major-label albums they made for A&M Records between 1993 and 2000 sound better than ever on this remastered set of reissues (available as two-CD or two vinyl LP sets).

Forty extra tracks are spread across them, which further demonstrate just how powerful and charismatic a sound the band made at their peak. The sonic overhaul undoubtedly adds power and punch to the booming Ron Asheton-style riffs that are dotted agreeably around 1993’s Superjudge (910).

The live extras for that album are lower-fi than their more polished counterparts on Powertrip, which shows how much more accomplished a live act they became, but what those recordings lack in radio-friendly sonic clarity they make up for in anarchic, trippy charm. Likewise the BBC session tracks from that era have a certain extra spaciness that’s actually enhanced by the lack of studio sheen.

The same can be said for the radio session versions accompanying 1995’s Dopes To Infinity (810), at a time when MM evidently still had one foot in a Hawkwind-swept acid rock sound as well as an urge to Kick Out The Jams (and the cover here doesn’t disappoint).

With 1998’s Powertrip (910) they finally had an MTV-approved hit in the shape of Spacelord, and that album’s highlights still rock. The Las Vegas live cuts from that period also showcase a band at the peak of its crowd-pleasing powers, sounding arrogant, evil and diabolically thrilling.

2000’s God Says No (810) didn’t fare as well commercially, but songs such as Melt stand alongside anything in the band’s repertoire, and the sitar-tinged Black Balloon shows that their attempts to broaden their sonic scope were more than worthwhile. Among the extras tacked onto that album is a magnificently barking overhaul of Sabbath’s Into The Void, which might just be the best non-album track they’ve ever done.

Ultimately, though, we look to Monster Magnet for OTT, OMG, NSFW metal thrills. And even without the added value these four albums deliver them in spades.

Johnny Sharp

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock