MONSTER MAGNET “A Better Dystopia”
By the Great Sun Jester
MONSTER MAGNET and longtime frontman Dave Wyndorf follow the road less traveled and their latest release “A Better Dystopia” continues pursuing an idiosyncratic path. The dawning pandemic played a card that no musician expected. The lockdowns and cessation of live concerts derailed the planned North American leg of their “Powertrip” tour, but Wyndorf and Co. aren’t the sort who enjoy staying idle for long. MONSTER MAGNET opted to, once again, break with convention and, without any new originals in the pipeline, record an album of cover songs.
These aren’t your ordinary cover songs. Anyone expecting MONSTER MAGNET to unleash a collection of BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, DEEP PURPLE or insert iconic rock act here cover songs has little or no idea what this band is about. Predictable turns are dismissed and scorned. “A Better Dystopia” instead features a baker’s dozen of far flung rock tracks hailing from that strange frontier of the early 70’s when Flower Power was wrecked on the shoals of social unrest, smack and cheap speed and we had not yet reached the era of stadium and arena rock.
Wyndorf’s fondness for this area is such that the first track isn’t even a song. It isn’t difficult imagining him as a young man and locking his attention on American DJ Dave Diamond monologing a hallucinatory mix of Beat-influenced prose poetry and evangelizing for rock music. Beginning the release by covering a radio DJ instead of an actual song is the kind of audacious move that defines this band’s career.
Some of these songs are, as they are for the band, threaded into my DNA. Their version of HAWKWIND’s “Born To Go” captures much of the original’s spirit without striking you as ever being slavishly imitative. These tracks are re-interpretations rather than tributes. MONSTER MAGNET packs plenty of their own character into this and other songs on this release rather than treating the songs like butterflies pinned under glass.
THE SCIENTISTS’ “Solid Gold Hell” is a song Dave Wyndorf feels in his veins. He wavers between simmering menace and throat-shredding fury with the confidence of a born frontman and the warm, all-encompassing guitar sound is ideal for this rumbling riffer. The band, however, jumps on the song’s flourishes with enthusiasm that fuels it with needed oomph. Anyone unfamiliar with the original should seek it out, post haste.
“Be Forewarned” is a high point on this release. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Wyndorf and company are fans of PENTAGRAM. Wyndorf captures the street corner prophet of doom quality of Bobby Liebling’s vocals and the former’s voice ventures into areas Liebling cannot go. There’s no question MONSTER MAGNET make every effort to approximate the arrangements for these tracks, but the music is such a part of their formative experience as musicians that it never feels studied. Naturalness is one of “A Better Dystopia’s” greatest strengths.
The lack of affectation continues. “Mr. Destroyer” has one of the hardest hitting choruses among these songs and picking this obscure POOBAH classic will delight many hardcore fans. “A Better Dystopia” will snare a few newcomers to these songs, without a doubt, but there’s no question that MONSTER MAGNET’s target audience for the album are devotees rather than casual fans. This isn’t Top 40 fare. None of these bands will ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Thank God!
If you love the band DUST and their epic classic “Learning To Die”, take a deep breath before listening to MONSTER MAGNET’s cover for the first time. Everything is going to be OK. Wyndorf and Co. do not attempt a note for note rendition of the song but it still soars with the same romping passion DUST long ago committed to tape. Anyone who loves adventurous and uncompromising hard rock will embrace “A Better Dystopia” without reservation.