Arguably one of the most prominent bands to fly the good ship Space rock, New Jersey star-gazers Monster Magnet have been around for well over two decades now, releasing several well-received records. Their songs regularly feature in Hollywood films and they’ve even had a Marvel Comics mutant named after one of their songs. There have been downsides however, with frontman Dave Wyndorf’s well-documented struggle with drug addiction threatening to scupper everything. However 2013 sees Wyndorf supposedly back on the straight and narrow and eager to prove the Monster Magnet is still turned on with Last Patrol (Napalm Records).
The stripped-down, melancholic guitar lines of opening track ‘I Live Behind The Clouds’ may come as a surprise to those expecting the fuzzed-out bombast of before but this is a more mature Monster Magnet than days gone by, with Wyndorf’s distinctive singing echoing the great American tradition of singer-songwriters, yet an exuberant solo promises that there’s much more to come. The title track follows, clocking in at nearly ten minutes and seems to indicate that the band is favouring a more Classic Rock approach this time round. Acts such as Thin Lizzy and The Eagles are called to mind and the images are of distant mountains rising high above a desert plain rather than a multi-coloured vision of outer space.
‘Three Kingfishers’ is a straight-up mature rock song with a few excursions into feedback territory, but the strength of Wyndorf and lead guitarist Garrett Sweeney keep the song anchored in a place where mainstream rock fans could easily stumble across it, like the radio for instance. The same can be said of the simple blues rhythms of ‘Paradise’ with the guitars flipping between acoustic and electric with ease. This is the sound of a band that knows their instruments and how each member plays, and the result is professionals in action. They turn up the heat again on the stomping ‘Hallelujah’ with Wyndorf playing the role of rousing preacher, albeit one has ingested many more chemicals over the years than is strictly normal.
The mainstream appeal of Last Patrol cannot be denied, yet it seems unlikely that the thought of selling out ever entered Monster Magnet’s collective head. They’ve just matured so well as songwriters that the talent shines through, and although there will be those that miss the Space rock voyages of Spine Of God, many more will be drawn to the likes of ‘The Duke (of Supernature)’ , a song tailor made for dance floors. One of the more grown-up releases of the year so far, let’s hope that the ominous title is not an indication of Monster Magnet’s intention to call it quits, for they haven’t been this good in years.