Monster Magnet back blowing minds

May 24, 2002


'The name of this band is Monster Magnet," vocalist Dave Wyndorf announced
four songs into an incendiary set Wednesday night at Metro. "And rock is alive!"

The long-running New Jersey quintet is in a difficult position. With its first few
recordings, it became a leading light in the so-called stoner-rock movement,
heralding a return to the psychedelic values and powerful riffs of the early '70s,
and winning a dedicated if grungy cult following.

On its last two major-label releases, the band made a credible attempt to tailor
that sound for radio and MTV, but neither outlet bought it. Interscope dropped
the group for its lack of commercial potential, and more troubling, many of its
old fans felt alienated.

So Wednesday's set was all about reconnecting. And the Magnet reclaimed its
rightful throne as one of the most potent bands in this genre.

The group avoided the more concise and tuneful songs from the recent "God
Says No" and "Powertrip" in favor of deeper, trippier album cuts and even more
gonzo material from its older back catalog, including a positively mind-blowing
reading of the title track of "Spine of God," an epic psychedelic blow-out rarely
performed live.

With bulging biceps protruding from a ratty denim vest, black leather pants
stretched tight, and greasy black hair stringing in his eyes, Wyndorf was not a
pretty sight. He may in fact be the ugliest man in rock, after Lemmy of
Motorhead. But he was a charismatic presence nonetheless, pushing his
limited voice as far as it would go and galvanizing the audience through sheer
force of will.

Meanwhile, behind him, guitarist Ed Mundell (who recently quit his side project,
Atomic Bitchwax) fired off searing solos as Phil Caivano provided the
relentlessly catchy riffs and drummer Jon Kleiman effortlessly combined the
dexterity of Deep Purple's Ian Paice with the uncompromising wallop of Led
Zeppelin's John Bonham.

Hard rock doesn't get much better than the barn-burning versions of "Zodiac
Lung," "Take It" and "Crop Circle" that the Magnet performed at Metro. Rock is
indeed alive, and prime purveyors like Wyndorf and company are sorely needed.
For evidence, one need only turn to the band that preceded the headliners

That group, Dragpipe, was yet another in the endless procession of soulless
corporate nu-metal hacks. Of course, they have a deal on Interscope, while
Magnet does not. But Wyndorf should take solace from Groucho Marx's famous
quip and ask himself if he'd really want to be part of any club that would mistake
dreck like that for rock.