15 June 2008

Rock epic of the month: "Look To Your Orb For The Warning" (Monster Magnet) 1995

Rock epics of the month is a series of posts where I'll look back on classic examples of what I think is the greatest excess of rock and roll - the rock epic.

Stoner Rock. One of the silliest sub-genres in rock and roll. And yet, I loved it.

In the early nineties, this very, very small movement inspired some titanic work from a number of bands who have either been forgotten about or, in turn, been regarded as something approaching legendary. The best remembered example of this genre was probably Kyuss, but normally if you chat with stoner rock aficionados, it's not long before Monster Magnet get mentioned.

Stoner rock was a peculiar beast, coming as it did after the wave of grunge that broke in the early nineties. It was best described to me as being equal parts early Steppenwolf, Hawkwind and Black Sabbath rooted firmly in sixties psychedelia, but I could see where the grunge influence fitted in as well. Influential in the early years, indeed, were grunge bands like Mudhoney and the Screaming Trees, who themselves, were quite close to Kyuss.

Stoner rock peaked a bit later on with the work of Queens Of The Stone Age, which featured some ex-members of Kyuss, but it was clear that QOTSA's take on stoner rock was both cleaner and leaner than the glorious mess that it was in its earlier incarnation. Wolfmother, from Sydney, appear to have also found success milking a similar teat to Monster Magnet.

Monster Magnet were from Red Bank, a little town in New Jersey. Formed by Dave Wyndorf and a few friends in 1989, they had already released two extremely highly regarded LPs in the pantheon of stoner rock by the time they got around to recording this - Spine Of God and Superjudge.

Monster Magnet's approach was probably best exemplified by a quote of Wyndorf's that appeared on the inside of their first album:

"It's a Satanic Drug Thing, You Wouldn't Understand."

By the time that Monster Magnet got around to recording their third LP, Dopes To Infinity, they had already been through a plethora of lineup changes, mainly due to the difficulty which band members had in working with main songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Wyndorf who strikes this blogger as a bit of an egomaniac.

Nevertheless, Dopes To Infinity was a superb album, completing a trifecta of well received stoner rock longplayers. 'Negasonic Teenage Warhead' was a hit and Monster Magnet looked to be going places that other stoner rock outfits such as Kyuss or Tumbleweed weren't likely to ever head.

'Look To Your Orb For The Warning' wasn't the longest track from this album, but it was a veritable journey through Middle Earth for your average stoner. It starts with some light guitar and mellotron before ripping into a proper Sabbath-esque groove.

Wyndorf never sang about boring stuff, when he could have gone on about spaceships on your doorstep and the old man down by the river, which he does all the way through this.

Jon Kleiman's drums through this are a huge sound and the use of the one chord throughout the verses and the breaks are quite effective. The choruses, on the other hand, return to the simple guitar and mellotron of the intro, before returning to the Sabbathy guitar, bass and drums grooves and it's only towards the end that they break the single chord cycle which most of the riffing likes to exist in before exploding in a burst of multi-tracked guitar and mellotron towards the end.

Whatever did happen to Monster Magnet? Well, the last I heard, they had released an album last year, which had been previously postponed after Wyndorf had overdosed on some prescription medication. They're still around, but probably not in the form that people remember them for.

They never released a video to this tune, as it was never a single. But this is a machinima rendition of it with skeletons grooving away, complete with air guitar and goat's head salutes. You've just gotta love it.


Michael Bains said...

Wow! Dang Dikkii! Who blogs about Monster Magnet?! You da man, dawg!

I saw 'em once when my nephew won tics off a college radio station. Wicked show, even though I did hafta book out about halfway thru - 'round midnight - cuz teh kiddo had to go to school the next day.

Dikkii said...

MB, I got into Monster Magnet when I was younger when I realised that their vision was so much more than just the rock. Sadly, I don't think that their work ever managed to scale the heights of their vision, but that's another tale.

Glad you enjoyed it.