When psychedelic rock icons MONSTER MAGNET got off the plane in the USA after their “Powertrip” tour of Europe in February 2020, they already realized that they’d dodged a bullet. The band members were all healthy, despite having spent the last week of the month-long excursion gigging overseas, and at that point, many of those countries were in total lockdown. Part two of that tour, North America, was scheduled to begin three weeks later, but the rest is history… no live music, anywhere. So, what’s a band that’s been touring regularly for 30 years to do with this newfound downtime?
Frontman Dave Wyndorf tells the inspired tale below, but without further ado — Napalm Records is pleased to present the next chapter of MONSTER MAGNET’s rabbit hole deep dive, “A Better Dystopia” (out May 21, 2021): a delightfully (and psychotically) curated collection of ’60s and ’70s proto-metal and late-era psych obscurities covered by the heavy New Jersey legends themselves.
While the album marks a new frontier for MONSTER MAGNET as their first covers record, this is not your typical set of standards released to pass time. “A Better Dystopia” sees the band pay homage to some of their favorite songs of all time, while reflecting on the paranoia, dystopia and revolution of both now — and then.
Fans can experience another taste of “A Better Dystopia” via a lyric video for MONSTER MAGNET’s cover of classic DUST track “Learning To Die”.
Of the song selection, Wyndorf says: “‘Learning To Die’ blew me away when I was 15 and it still blows me away. Man, do I LOVE to sing this song. DUST was one of the greats.”
Wyndorf says about the birth of “A Better Dystopia”: “We all agreed that we would be bored out of our minds within a month of lockdown. MONSTER MAGNET loves the road. It’s a lifestyle. So, I considered our options. Rather than panhandle on the Internet, hawking masks and Zoom-rocking practice sessions for dollars, I suggested we record a ‘bunker record.’ A total DIY affair (band only) recorded and mixed in Bob Pantella’s small-but-potent Freak Shop Studios/rehearsal space right here in New Jersey. But what to record?
“I didn’t feel much like writing, but working on anything was better than watching the news as hospitals filled up, people died, and American politics went bat-shit crazy. The world roared ‘Dystopia! Apocalypse! Revolution!’ I’d heard those words before, and they brought to mind my childhood in the late ’60s/early ’70s… and the music… and short playlist of songs (just one of many) that I’d been carrying around with me on my whatever device to listen to before shows. Of course, these tunes have also been in my head for more or less my whole life. These were not the popular hits of the time. This was like a playlist from the fourth dimension… strange bits of musical obscurity, mostly dredged up from that inglorious and freaky ‘twilight zone’ time that preceded arena rock, heavy metal, reggae and disco. A no-man’s land of hard rock that still had remnants of psychedelia and garage punk but had abandoned any notion of ‘flower power’ or frat house fun. And of course, they rocked.
“Yeah, these songs were it.”
Wyndorf is at the top of his game on “A Better Dystopia”, delivering each lyric in his own inimitable style, and musicians Phil Caivano, Bob Pantella, Garrett Sweeney and Alec Morton own the sound — vintage and old school, dense and heavy, with searing fuzz leads and pounding bass and drums all played in a deft style that’s almost been lost in modern music. The album opens with “The Diamond Mine”, as Dave Wyndorf recites a classic monologue by Dave Diamond, an American radio DJ whose programs in the late ’60s and early ’70s helped popularize many psychedelic and acid rock bands. At this point the real trip begins, as the opening chords of the HAWKWIND classic “Born To Go” gear up for launch. Tracks like standout “Mr. Destroyer” (POO-BAH) spur visions of some untold freak revolution — or perhaps dinosaurs battling on a burning planet at the end of time — creating a perfect blend of hard rock and psychedelia. Feverish “Motorcycle (Straight To Hell)” (TABLE SCRAPS) is pure punk fury of the old school tradition, evoking a cross between Iggy Pop and MOTÖRHEAD as Wyndorf wails “I’m gonna drive it straight to HELL!” Falling even further down the mind-bending rabbit hole, MAGNET offers their stunning, whirlwind take on the often-overlooked hard rock classic “Learning To Die” (DUST) and a masterful version of the STOOGES-meets-goth epic “Solid Gold Hell” (THE SCIENTISTS). The album closes with a bonus nuclear cover of MORGEN’s “Welcome To The Void”, inviting you to restart the ride again and again.
Wyndorf concludes: “The great bands whose music we lovingly interpret here were (and some still are) on the fringe, underrated, and in our opinion, really, really cool. I think that’s reason enough for us to do this album. Furthermore, ‘A Better Dystopia’ is a collection of songs that I think reflect (knowingly or unknowingly) a paranoid time in history, but also deflect that same paranoia by owning it, fully. And of course, it ROCKS.”
“A Better Dystopia” track listing:
01. The Diamond Mine
02. Born To Go
03. Epitaph For A Head
04. Solid Gold Hell
05. Be Forewarned
06. Mr. Destroyer
07. When The Wolf Sits
10. It’s Trash
11. Motorcycle (Straight To Hell)
12. Learning To Die
13. Welcome To The Void (bonus track)
MONSTER MAGNET is:
Dave Wyndorf – Vocals, Guitar
Phil Caivano – Guitar
Garret Sweeny – Guitar
Alec Morton – Bass
Bob Pantella – Drums
Photo credit: Gonzales Photo / Per-Otto Oppi / Alamy Live News