February 2, 2015 Monster Magnet – Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol (Album Review)
Palm Desert, California’s Rock scene was one which exuded influence on everything that could thereafter be classified as “Stoner Rock.” In the mid ‘80s, bands like Yawning Man and Fu Manchu garnered popularity, but it was not until Kyuss released key records in the genre like Welcome to Sky Valley (1994) and Blues for the Red Sun (1992) that the world could associate a name with the movement. Likewise, other parts of the country spawned several noteworthy names in Stoner Rock and Stoner Metal, including Clutch (Maryland), Weedeater (North Carolina), Down (Louisiana), and Alabama Thunderpussy (Virginia). Red Bank, New Jersey, however, saw Monster Magnet’s formation in 1989, who are one of the greatest contemporary Stoner Rock bands to exist. Throughout their career, frontman Dave Wyndorf has remained the group’s only consistent member. Monster Magnet released four consecutive albums that are now regarded as classics in the genre – 1991’s Spine of God, 1993’s Superjudge, 1995’s Dopes to Infinity, and 1998’s Powertrip. The band released four albums in the 2000s, before recording Last Patrol in 2013, which has been revered as their best album since 1998’s Powertrip. The album let up on Wyndorf’s extensive use of Science-Fiction inspired lyrical imagery and took a more personal approach. Visions of celestial bodies and asteroid fields were not completely absent on the record, however, what with mentions of a “nuclear sunrise,” “a cosmic circus,” and “dead moons and chicken bones.” Wyndorf himself regards Last Patrol as a return to their earlier years, when their teeth were freshly sharp and threatening. Monster Magnet decided to release a “reimagined” take on Last Patrol, and released it in 2014. The new record was entitled Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol.
Milking the Stars: A Re-Imangining of Last Patrol was an exercise in theoretics. Wyndorf took the idea that a song could never truly be finished, and let his imagination do the rest. The structures of the songs were not changed noticeably, but the instrumentation was clearly altered. The organ lick on the hook of “Mindless Ones ’68” gives it an extra-dimensional occult flair, while the keyboards in “End of Time (B-3)” give it a Psychobilly meets Stadium Rock personality. Monster Magnet also utilizes the agency of expansive Progressive Rock on Milking the Stars. “Let the Circus Burn,” a revision of “Last Patrol” is one such example and has been rendered instrumental for the sake of atmosphere. Another song to which an element of Prog Rock was added was “I Live Behind the Clouds (Roughed Up and Slightly Spaced),” which mixes Wyndorf’s vocals much lower, marginalizing the track’s initial theatrical presentation and simultaneously bolstering its overall Space Rock vibe. The new mixing has the exact opposite effect on “Stay Tuned (Even Sadder),” which pulled the vocal track much further into the foreground. Not every track on Milking the Stars is dressed up in a new $300 suit, however. “No Paradise for Me” and “Hallelujah (Fuzz and Swamp)” are raw and stripped-back-to-the-bone Blues Rock tracks that flaunt Monster Magnet’s classic stiff upper lip. Not every song on the album is a revision of a track on Last Patrol, however. Two songs, “Milking the Stars” and “Goliath Returns,” are original cuts, the first being one of the slickest, grooviest, and most mature Space Rock tracks Monster Magnet has done. The change of percussion on the aptly titled “The Duke (Full On Drums ‘n Wah),” a reinterpretation of Last Patrol’s “The Duke (Of Supernature),” lent a groovy immediacy to the “Planet Caravan” inspired slow burner.
Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol shows Last Patrol in a fresh light. The two albums give a glimpse into two separate alternate dimensions of what could have been. The intergalactic elite known in this world as Monster Magnet continue their reign with yet another solid work. CrypticRock gives Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol 4 out of 5 stars.