Monster Mash


My favorite residual effect of electronica is how it’s opened up loud rock to sounding hypnotic. The stateliest swirling lately (like Rammstein’s keyboards) comes from Central Europe, but a couple of the more barbaric and salable mechanical-metal stars right now are comix-fan geeks who’ve been kicking around Manhattan beer joints in artsier form for ages.

Current cock-rock’s most convincing cocksman, promising his paramour tales of victory and asking who’s gonna teach her to dance and ring her little bell, Monster Magnet howler Dave Wyndorf has wisely criticized most ’90s metal as “men singing to men.” Psyching up a curiously wholesome crowd for Halloween at suburban Philly’s Tower Theatre October 26 (the tour got to Roseland three days later), Wyndorf was shirtless under a black vest and spankably tight black leather pants— none of that baggy Korn shit. Simulating cunnilingus on exotic dancers and humping the stage after pledging to party like 1999, he moved his crotch and funk-soul-bruva grunts more fluidly than any headbanger I’ve witnessed since Axl Rose had an appetite. Wyndorf growls “Space lord mother mother” in his current AOR hit just so he can change it to “motherfucker” live. In the video, after he promises in his frankest Zappa low-register that if he misses his bath he’ll take it out on the slaves, visuals turn from drab grunge horror into a Vegas extravaganza with Miami bass girls thrusting booties around his light-bulbed suit-coat. Live, his cold-blooded three-guitar firing line left the bullshit to Dave, who testified up some badass holy-roller double-live-gonzo, rhyming “celebration,” “edification,” “information,” and “fornication.”

Headliner Rob Zombie is dorkier, throwing around superbeasts, hunchbacks, living-dead girls. “Time of the Season” by the real Zombies had more seductive energy, and Rob’ll never write a Halloween hymn as memorable as, say, Whodini’s “Haunted House of Rock.” But he’s gradually simplified his pretensions from the lurching mid-’80s Lower East Side skronk convolutions of White Zombie, now officially kaput, evolving toward a synth-and-slide grind crass enough for strip clubs. Beavis and Butt-head made him famous, so he now runs a label specializing in surf instrumentals.

His stage set ruled— giant mutant robots in front of a two-story dungeon whose skull-
encrusted catacomb arches were glimpses into the great beyond, which consisted of video screens playing Nosferatu and Munsters excerpts. Floppy-boot-stomping like a whirling-dervish lovechild of Rumplestiltskin and Ian Anderson, Rob blabbermouthed good-naturedly enough, especially during his latest go-cart ride, “Dragula.” More than its samplers and drum machines (and Prodigy rebel yells and Comics Code­defying cover), what lifts his now­Top 30 Hellbilly Deluxe above the realm of carmelized ooze is its seemingly incongruous excursions into ambient Enigma-to­ Ofra Haza elegance, which sound a lot more funereal than its “scary” parts.

I tired years ago of ironic postpunks aiming to recapture that magical Nixon-era moment when psychedelia’s hallucinogenic zoom turned into metal’s amplified cemetery nod, but I like how Rob’s “Meet the Creeper” shifts continental-drift riffs under Uriah Heep screeches anyway. Likewise, I initially dismissed Monster Magnet as a stupid Blue Cheer parody, but I now hear them as locating a songful energy and clarity in reverberating Middle Eastern stuck-in-groove distortion drones that inspirations like Hawkwind (whose “Brainstorm” they’ve improved) never quite uncovered. Their sludge gets gratuitously deafening too often, but there are subtleties: Link Wray twang, Thurston Moore clang, Kraut-rock echo. “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” a theremin-hooked hybrid of “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” Jesus Christ Superstar, and an idling V-6 that flirted with hitdom three years back, was a journey to the center of your mind as down-to-earth as anything by the Amboy Dukes, if not early Pere Ubu.

Song lengths have diminished gradually with every subsequent album; there are more under four minutes now, fewer over six. The 1995 Dopes to Infinity balances concise nuggets like “Negasonic” and the sad homage-to-Mom “Blow ‘Em Off” with light-years of spacious Mellotron expansion. But on Powertrip Wyndorf’s writing comes into its own, planting bombs in the temple of your dreams as consistently as new guitar dude Phil Caivano’s mastodon hooks. (Coincidence note: Wyndorf and Caivano actually started out in the militaristic New York punk platoon Shrapnel, villains of Lester Bangs’s legendary “White Noise Supremacists,” who I reviewed in 1984— along with a band called Powertrip!) And it’s not like Powertrip lacks a feminine side; even Goth grrrls like it. My personal pick is “See You in Hell,” which whirls cheesy skating-rink Farfisa under a creepy story of a pregnant punk who disposes of her baby somewhere in the swamps of Jersey (Monster Magnet’s home base). This outfit’s biggest nonsex subjects are adolescence and swallowing pills. But they explode the mundane into larger-than-life science-fiction weirdness, like Blue Öyster Cult used to— tongue-in-cheek metal mythologizing so dead-on it outclasses the real thing.