And on the eighth day, God created Black Sabbath. And the Stooges, the MC5, Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, Keith Richard’s teeth, and Leslie West’s belly. And it was good. For the white devil had taken the black devil’s devil music and made of it something twice and sometimes three times as devilish. Just ripped that stuff right out of the fertile Mississippi mud and defiled the shit out of it. The blues begat the blooze and it was ugly, bloated, and loud. And Petey Wheatstraw wept.
If the blues was a music of tension and release born from an anguished cry of joy and pain amid the toil and strife of an often embittered existence, and enjoyed during its prime by solid folks who used their backs and hands to carve out a spot for themselves in an unfair world, then heavy metal (in all its not so subtle variations) was a constant orgasm that would enthrall mostly orgasm-plagued teenagers in search of the eternal buzz. All of which begs the question: Will Moby and Tortoise destroy rock and roll?
I tend to think that they won’t. Bad dance music and bad jazz-prog will never win out as long as millions of teens are still listening to bad rap and bad metal. The rock of iniquity just keeps on rolling down the proverbial hill of deviance in search of the lake of inebriation to slake its thirst in preparation for yet another round of Dionysian bacchanals. No, the golden age of rock and roll will never die as long as kids want to laugh and kids want to cry. (For further proof, in England they’re no longer listening to bad techno and bad trance: The hottest thing is something called U.K. Garage! Yeeeah, baby—bust out those Seeds and Count Five records and have yerself a right corker!)
This is all just a roundabout way of saying that the new Monster Magnet album is kinda crappy, and they’d better check themselves before they quite irrevocably wreck themselves. We need these American doper-rock icons now more than ever, if only to combat some of the more tedious artyfartifications of rock-based forms. What we don’t need are semi-so-so songs that are samey in a bad way as opposed to gamy in a good way.
In the past, Monster Magnet and their leader, “Diamond” Dave Wyndorf, were always game for good-to-go cartunes best played on the Jersey Turnpike at midnight in August with the top down during a holiday weekend with the thermometer at 90, a bad hangover, and half a case of Pabst to get through. You know, the good life. Crappy mescaline, dirtweed. Another rerun of Cops. Monster Magnet could whisk you away on gossamer wings made of poop. The collective unconsciousness of Iggy, Paul Stanley, and the Sab emanating from a brain raised on Wacky Packs, Creepy magazine, and the Silver Surfer. In a word: retro. Their sci-fi lyrics completely at odds with their earthbound creationist thud.
No lyricist has ever explored the many moods of his penis as eloquently as Dave Wyndorf. So God Says No, along with anything by Dave’s spiritual and philosophical cousin Rob Zombie (the Rat Fink to Wyndorf’s Boo Boo), is still a must-have for any self-respecting stripper. But for non-polesliders I’d say stick with any of Monster Magnet’s earlier, funnier, stoopider offerings. Start with ’98’s Powertrip, where Dave’s lyrics achieved some sort of idiot genius, and then work your way back if you’re so inclined. The further back you go, the guitars just get louder and meaner. (Speaking of ax murder, if you find Monster Magnet a little posh for your taste, definitely pick up Magnet guitarist Ed Mundell’s albums with boogie separatist outfit Atomic Bitchwax, and re-create a time when Toe Fat, Tucky Buzzard, and Status Quo ruled the land with a ham fist.)
Truth is, God Says No just ain’t stoopid enuff. It falls flat where it should fall to its knees in a Benzedrine benediction. It’s like the hawk without the wind. Like Uriah without the heap. It’s got a serious lack of cheap thrills: about two memorable riffs, some nifty slide guitar, a song that melds the Strawberry Alarm Clock with Dick Dale and Filter, some fairly uninspired goat-god dick jokes, and processed beats (which I got no beef with, and if they’re trying to duplicate the success of ’98’s “Space Lord” with some MTV-friendly fare, that’s fine by me—somebody has to bring the rock to the kids, even if a reference to dead funny-book illustrator Jack Kirby will most likely have them scratching their pea-filled noggins).
I’ve always seen Monster Magnet as the essential middle ground for rock fans turned off by “real” heavy metal on the one hand, and lacking the patience or lung strength necessary to appreciate the heavier acid sounds to be found under bridges and behind methadone clinics on the other. And I’ll definitely be looking for more bong-worthy material from them in the future.
They’ve had such an inspired take on what makes squalling guitars, blooze bastardization, and gung ho boosterism of drug abuse, nihilism, and debauchery such an integral piece of our national fabric. That knowledge, and the deft implementation of said knowledge, is a treasure that will be embraced by generations to come. For Satan’s sake, someone has to ride the tractor on the drug farm! Plus, at this very moment, the Sea and Cake or Mogwai are in the studio recording yet another album. Wait, do you hear that? Is that an oud? Quick, to the fuzzbox!
Scott Seward can be chastised at email@example.com.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 10, 2001