@planetmosh reviews Milking the Stars – A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol by .@monstermagnetnj on .@NapalmRecords.
So, somehow I’ve managed to be completely unaware of Monster Magnet for the majority of their twenty five year career. Which probably makes me the ideal person to review this album. It is, as the name suggests, a version of their 2013 album Last Patrol, but with a twist. As vocalist Dave Wyndorf puts it it’s “like Last Patrol in a ‘what if’ style alternate reality.” So, do I listen to Last Patrol and compare the two, or do I take this as a stand-alone piece and review it as I would any other album? Well, I’ve decided to do it the courtesy of leaving Last Patrol alone. This is very much it’s own album, and so I’ll treat it as such. Once I’m finished writing I’ll listen to Last Patrol and see what I think but for now, let’s just focus on Milking the Stars.
Monster Magnet have been through a few lineup changes in their time. Their most recent incarnation features Dave Wyndorf on vocals, Phil Caivano and Garrett Sweeny on guitars, Bob Pantella on drums and Chris Kosnik on bass.
Milking the Stars, for all it’s a re-working of an existing album, is actually quite an original idea. It takes the backbone of Last Patrol, adds four new songs and a couple of live tracks and using different instruments, new arrangements and new vocals turns it on its psychedelic head. Wyndorf says he always wonders when writing an album what would happen if he did these things and this time he and the band, along with mixer Joe Barresi actually got to find out. Just from looking at the song titles you can tell what kind of crazy trip you’re in for when listening to this album. Look at the words in brackets:(Roughed up and Slightly Spaced), (Fuzz and Swamp), (Even Sadder), (Full on Drums and Wah) and you know this is no ordinary album. It’s a staple saying of mine that no-one should ever do a cover version unless they can do it better than the original. To be brave enough to cover your own work to such an extreme is either crazy or genius. If fans love the original how will they react to the re-worked version? Or will they accept it as something new? Time will tell, but as a beginner coming to this as my first real experience of Monster Magnet, I have to say I think it shows incredible imagination and creativity.
The album begins with the fully instrumental Let the Circus Burn. I’m not generally a fan of the instrumental, but at least this one has a sense that it’s going somewhere, as it builds throughout into a big Hammond organ finish. The album’s psychedelic intent is set out from the beginning. Also, my dislike of instrumentals makes me all the happier when I finally get to listen to Dave Wyndorf’s awesome vocals on Mindless Ones ’68. He fairly roars his way through the track, with no small similarity to Chris Cornell, entreating us to “Surrender to the Mindless Ones.” He puts every ounce of passion he has for his work into his voice, which elevates this song, and the album to a higher level.
Hallelujah(Fuzz and Swamp) is a highlight for me, a real foot-stomper. Wyndorf sounds like a gospel church minister in the Deep South, growing in volume and intensity and even the most atheist of listeners will be singing Hallelujah along with him. Straight after it comes I Live Behind the Clouds(Roughed up and Slightly Spaced), which starts as quiet and chilled as it’s brackets suggest. Again though, the guitars and vocals build in power and intensity until finally letting rip, then chilling out again just as suddenly. It’s a really great track that just gets better the more you listen to it. Selecting highlights from this album is difficult but those two, along with The Duke(Full on Drums and Wah) are standouts for me. And when they say full on drums and wah, they mean it!
Milking the Stars is something I wasn’t sure I’d like. Reading other opinions on it the word psychedelic kept coming up and it’s never been a genre I’m very fond of. However, this album is so much more than that. It’s the product of some very creative, very inquisitive, imaginative minds, who deserve all kinds of credit. First of all for being brave enough to completely rework what was an already successful album, and second for doing it with such a lack of fear or inhibition.
Track Listing: Let the Circus Burn/Mindless Ones ’68/No Paradise for me/End of Time (B-3)/Milking the Stars/Hallelujah (Fuzz And Swamp)/I Live Behind The Clouds (Roughed Up And Slightly Spaced)/Goliath Returns/Stay Tuned (Even Sadder)/The Duke (Full On Drums ‘N Wah)/Last Patrol (Live)/Three Kingfishers (Live).
Links: www.monstermagnet.net, www.facebook.com/monstermagnet, @monstermagnetnj, @NapalmRecords