Review Summary: Monster Magnet's 1991 debut album, "Spine Of God" is considered a Stoner Rock classic and/or the band's "best album" by some. While it is both, it still has a few flaws that prevent it from getting a 5. Well, at least from me.
In 1991, Stoner Rock had just started. Besides Palm Desert pioneers Kyuss
, "proto-stoners" Masters Of Reality
, there wasn't much on the scene, except for, well, a band hailing from New Jersey, led by a hilariously stereotypical macho rocker and a Syd Barrett devotee with his feet substituted with effect pedals, called Monster Magnet. And these guys definitely took more drugs and listened to more Hawkwind
and Blue Cheer
per day than both of the above-mentioned bands.... together.
So what's the difference between this album and Kyuss's "classic" LP "Blues For The Red Sun" you ask? Well, Kyuss were definitely inspired by desert rockers like Giant Sand
as much as by the now-usual suspects, whereas this kind of music was only a tertiary influence for Monster Magnet, if it even was any. Thus, these guys are more instantly psychedelic and less sludgy. So, what does it sound like now? First of all, Monster Magnet apparently went down the Black Sabbath
revival route later one, and this is something very different from "Space Lord" or the "Dopes To Infinity" album.
"Spine Of God" begins with a psychedelic drum solo(!) which turns into "Pill Shovel", the album's great opening track. And it already presents the band's best qualities: John McBain's (the Syd Barrett devotee) lead guitar gives us some weird, often eastern-inspired freakouts and all sorts of strange noises, heavily utilizing wah-wah, delay and a ton of other effects, whereas rhythm guitarist/singer Dave Wyndorf (the stereotypical macho rocker) is responsible for the actual riffs and the more earthy tones. And when Wyndorf intones "I stand/On the mountains of mars/Sparkin' up" with his sometimes Captain Beefheart
-like, effect-laden macho voice over a Maharishi-Beatles
drone, you feel like it's approximately 1972 and you're staring at your lava lamp, completely stoned (even if you're sober). The album continues with the more conventional rocker "Medicine" (later sampled by the Beastie Boys
for "Sabotage"), complete with strange, yet anthemic chorus ("Down that medicine now/Yeah baby!"). Whereas the lyrics may be more of a "take it or leave it" affair, the music is definitely on the "take it" side. I mean, if you don't like songs like the epic title track (with some of John McBain's best guitar work and a sitar), the rocking "Snake Dance" ("If Satan lived in heaven/He'd be me"), or the soft verse/heavy chorus freakout that is "Nod Scene", I can't help you either. Even the "soft" numbers, namely the mockingly hateful "Zodiac Lung" ("It's ***ups like you/Who always seem to get it all"), with bongos(!) and especially the excellent closing track "Ozium" are absolutely stunning and what not.
Now, if this guy likes this album so much, why doesn't he a give it a 5?, you ask. While this absolutely great, it still has a few small flaws. First of all, the sound's a bit flat (I recommend getting the recent remaster) and it can be seem a bit chaotic at times, since it's far from streamlined and it has all sorts of strange noises everywhere. Plus, I don't think "Black Mastermind" needed to be stretched out to nearly 8 minutes, and the cover of Grand Funk Railroad
's "Sin's a Good Man's Brother" is pretty boring. So, no sir, no 5 for you.
All in all, I can only sincerely recommend this one to anyone who likes Stoner Rock (or just psychedelic Heavy Rock in general), but people who only know (and like) Monster Magnet's stuff circa "Dopes To Infinity"/"Powetrip" are advised to handle it with care and probably try the "Superjudge" album first.
(Feedback would be much appreciated