Monster Magnet: Mastermind

Mastermind (Limited Edition) As the 2010 “best-of” rock and pop polls that everyone is already sick of begin to appear in droves, it is clear that hard rock is once again very out of style. 

The tastemakers who purport to curate the current rock scene, or what’s left of it, tend to be pseudo-artsy types who see great cultural significance in effete nerds like The Arcade Fire (one of those bands people will be embarrassed about ever liking 10 years from now), but not so much in bands who really deliver the hard stuff with a vengeance, bands like Killing Joke, or today’s topic of concern, Monster Magnet.

In style or out, however, The Magnet, stoner-rock stalwarts and Sons of Anarchy soundtrack faves, are back with their most artistically cohesive set (they really don’t do bad albums) since the awesome 1990s classic Powertrip, their career peak artistically, financially and critically.

On Mastermind, MM leader Dave Wyndorf makes great use of the lesson he learned from his classic rock heroes: the necessity of the musical change of pace. 

From Zeppelin to Sabbath to The Stooges, the greatest bands knew that just offering one basher after another on any given album is ultimately monolithic, baby (the title of their 2004 album) and eventually, kinda boring. 

So in the tradition of musical curveballs like Zep’s “Tangerine,” the Sabs’ “Changes” or the Stooges’ “Gimme Danger,” Wyndorf here alternates more typical (and excellent) Monster-esque sledgehammer slammers like “Hallucination Bomb” and “Gods and Punks” with some nifty change-ups, like the gloomily gothic-noir, keyboard-drenched “The Titan Who Cried Like A Baby” and the moody, semi-acoustic “Time Machine,” which evokes the aforementioned Raw Power-era Stooges song (itself previously covered by MM). 

Meanwhile, the driving “Perish In Fire” is underpinned by some nifty bongo-drumming (!), the kind of touch you definitely won’t see most other hard rock bands attempting anytime soon.

So fuck the tastemakers.

The musical eclecticism on display here, creating emotional peaks and valleys when yoked to Wyndorf’s always inspired wordplay (“I’m moving up to the moon now / and baby it’s a lonely ride / takin’ notes from talkin’ to your ghost / and still staying up all night,”  he sings on the eerie “Ghost Story”), makes Mastermind one of GutterCandy’s fave releases of 2010.

--JWB

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