By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
By Noah Hubbell
By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
By Britt Chester
By Noah Hubbell
Dave Wyndorf, the lead singer for Monster Magnet, has heard the snickers from snooty, pretentious reviewers who dismiss his band as the real-life Spinal Tap. And he wants such Poindexters to know that they're on to something.
"My whole life in Monster Magnet, and pretty much my whole life in rock and roll, has been a cross between the ultimate satirical stereotype and the times when that stereotype becomes a reality," he says. "The minute you go on stage--and I don't care if you're Weezer or Pantera--you are in Spinal Tap. If you've got a tour manager with a flashlight, you're Spinal Tap--period. But that stuff is a lot of what I always loved about rock and roll when I was a kid, and what I still like about it. And the cool thing is, when you're in a band, you're kind of in the driver's seat of the stereotype. So why not hit the gas?"
That's what Monster Magnet does on Powertrip, its latest mind-bender on A&M Records. The rudiments of the band's sound--mammoth chords and wonderfully wanky solos by guitarist Ed Mundell, mega-boogie bass courtesy of Joe Calandra, the cavernous drum-playing of John Kleiman and Wyndorf's throaty, hyped-up yowling--are deeply rooted in Sixties/Seventies hard rock and psychedelia, and the bold, boisterous lyrics suit this style perfectly. "Crop Circle," in which Wyndorf bellows, "Instead of dragging the swamp for your lost love/Come to me, I'm your living crop circle/Yeah!" sets the tone for the album as a whole; it's a freak-out phantasmagoria that's served up hot and nasty. "See You in Hell," meanwhile, is ostensibly about the end of the world, but a nagging organ, undeniable hooks and the upbeat way Wyndorf brays the couplet "I was talkin' to Jesus through a hole in the floor/He said our time is up, we can't stay here anymore!" make Satan's playground seem like a mighty fine place to be. Just as guiltily pleasurable are "Temple of Your Dreams" ("I bring you a light you can never see in the daytime"), "Tractor" ("My buddy Joe gave me a laughing pill/It tasted like shit and it gave me the chills") and "Powertrip" ("When you get tired of their crap, baby/Move over here and maybe buy some of mine").
Humor surfaces in most of these numbers, as well as in the group's iconography: Powertrip's jacket includes a shot of Calandra behind the wheel of a convertible, trying to run over the Pope as two bimbos cheer him on. But if Monster Magnet is a joke, it's a hugely enjoyable one--a proto-metal juggernaut that should hit the average rock lover square in the pelvis. Sure, it's stoopid, but that's half the reason it's so damn entertaining.
Wyndorf readily admits that Powertrip is unlikely to become required listening for Mensa enrollees. "The critics are gonna hate it," he says. "It's so dumb." Rather than moaning about the disc's intellectual shortcomings, however, he celebrates them--and in so doing, he feels that he comes closer to recapturing the original spirit of the music than most of the acts currently churning out fodder for the Testosterone Nation.
"A lot of the hard rock that's out there now is this kill-me-now-kill-yourself-I'm-so-fucked-up kind of thing," he argues. "But there's not enough time in life for me to dwell on shit like that. I've got torture in me, like I'm sure everybody does. Maybe it's a symptom of the Nineties. But I really think it's too easy to go out there and get in touch with kids with the angst routine. It's like with Korn. The kids want to rock, and Korn looks modern, and they're heavy and stuff. But when you finally get down to it, they're not really connecting, because it's all negative. And I don't need anybody to tell me about negative stuff in my life. I have enough of that already.
"Too many bands just push mosh buttons," he goes on. "They write mosh part after mosh part after mosh part just to elicit an aggressive reaction from the crowd. You know, that head-down, pneumatic pumping. And then there's the whole we're-not-gonna-sing-we're-just-gonna-bark thing. It's all very impressive in the beginning, and when it's done by the masters, like Slayer, it can be an art form unto itself. But when it's done by a zillion other bands and they call it a scene, I just don't buy it. I mean, rock and roll's not really about that. It's about people reinventing themselves to be someone more important than they really were. That's what Jerry Lee Lewis did, and Chuck Berry. And that's what I did, too."
A self-described "white guy from New Jersey," Wyndorf grew up with an understanding that rock and roll was inextricably bound to sex and drugs. He says that lust first became a major force in his life at age six ("I didn't realize it until I was twelve or thirteen," he concedes), and by the time he was fourteen, he was already wild to consume some of the illicit substances he'd heard so much about on television. "All those anti-drug commercials really made me want to do drugs bad," he says. "They'd be like, 'Don't do this or you'll jump out a window,' or 'If you take this, you might think you're a flower and try to float away.' And I'd be like, 'That sounds so cool.' So I bought a bag of pot and smoked the whole thing and didn't get high--but then I bought another bag, and that time I did get high, and it was great. After that I started taking acid and listening to Ramones and Black Sabbath records and watching movies like Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner. The whole thing was an adventure, which was just what I wanted, because I lived in the suburbs, and there wasn't much adventure there."