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Monster Magnet

Living back East a decade or so ago, I quite often was the mail recipient of tapes from one Tim Cronin, a hulking, musically hip record store clerk whose off-hours attachment to his portastudio was matched only by his adroitness at coming up with intriguing names for the various ad hoc musical partnerships he and his New Jersey slacker pals mounted. After one name began surfacing on a regular basis and I expressed my admiration for the neopsychedelic, Hawkwind-meets-Butthole Surfers train wreck that was Dog of Mystery, Cronin cryptically posted me the following prediction: "Wait'll you hear our next phase. We're changing the name to Monster Magnet. It'll make your head explode."

Cut to 2001, when Monster Magnet now has a slew of critically saluted records in the bins, the last one of which, 1998's Powertrip, notched some real chart action. By now my old tapehead chum Cronin is listed as the band's "spiritual adviser," no doubt helping keep the members sane while touring with the likes of Metallica, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. (A friend of mine who also knows Cronin and has heard tales of Monster Magnet's on-the-road debauchery quipped, "Well, I don't think he's an adviser in the Jesse Jackson-Bill Clinton sense. In the Charlie Manson-Dennis Wilson sense, maybe.") At any rate, Cronin's forecast came true. It's right there, on the new album, selection number two. "Heads Explode" is a right-on slab of lascivious skree foaming at the teeth with fuzztone/wah-wah riffs, tumescent organ throbs and vocalist Dave Wyndorf's outrageous come-ons to sinners everywhere: "I am a pillar of salt/You'll never be worse than me, no!/So get in the fucking car/We got us a world to bleed."

God Says No does build upon the commercial groundwork laid by its arena-rockesque predecessor, chiefly by crafting a dense yet sonically detailed wall of sound much in the way Rob Zombie does (indeed, a couple of the songs here are ripe for remixing -- the Mellotron-drenched power chord assault of "Melt," for example, or the doomy, industrial-tinged "My Little Friend"). Yet its signature sound is scrawled not in the nihilistic aggro-philia of the '90s but in the proto-art-punk angst of the early '70s. The title track's dark Doors vibe is so rich you can practically watch lizard king scales grow on Wyndorf as he charts an epic battle of wills with the titular deity. ("It's good to be bad!" he crows, without a trace of irony.) "Kiss of the Scorpion" is an over-the-top homage to vintage garage-psych, all fuzz 'n' farfisa, with a middle section freakout borrowed from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown's classic "Fire," albeit with slightly updated, X-rated lyrics.

"Doomsday" is straight outta Detroit rock city, Wyndorf sneering like a young Iggy Stooge eagerly gobbling Quaaludes while the rest of the band serves up a searing "1969"/"1970" pastiche. (Significantly, Monster Magnet actually covers the Stooges' "1970" as one of the B-sides on the "Heads Explode" U.K. CD single; a previous Motor City nod came by way of the '98 B-side to "Space Lord," a cover of the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams.") Elsewhere on this sprawling slab of Dionysian sonic excess one detects Martian surf twang, mystic sitar hum and even straight-up psychedelic blooze, all irreverently and righteously filtered through the horrific/cartoonish Monster Magnet lens.

In that sense, Wyndorf & Co. is the most traditional of rock 'n' roller, aiming to come to your town and help you party it down. None of that "we were abused as kids/we're all negative creeps" guff for Monster Magnet. This band's idea of making heads explode doesn't involve shotguns to the mouth, but a trap door on the top of your cranium flying open and an evil, grinning jack-in-the-box springing out.