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Monster Magnet - Tab and Spine of God (reissues)

Format: Download
Released: 2017
Label: Napalm Records Handels GmbH
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 7/10

Monster Magnet could easily be believed to have sprouted fully formed from Black Sabbath's heads, but no, even these guys and their greasy Barbarella sound had to start somewhere. To wit: the primitive, single-celled material heard on their first two records, “Spine of God” and “Tab,” has been re-released in all reasonable formats for 2017, including their first ever vinyl editions.

The music is a trip - - in a few senses of the word. It’s almost an archaeological expedition to visit this era of the band's development, especially to hear the elements that were fully intact immediately after hatching, and which were still swimming in gestational plasma. Dave Wyndorf is more of a true NJ representative than Bon Jovi could ever hope to be, and as ever, his distinctive Jersey-laden attitude comes through in every snarled, far-out pulp Sci-Fi lyric. The riffs and song structures are almost non-existent, through the long stretches of spaced-out jams. It sounds like these are the resultant Maxell tape recordings after the guys smoked an entire forest inside Dave's garage, picked up their instruments, and hit play+record on the boombox. Where on later albums, the hooks, riffs, words, and structures were as tight and precise as planetary orbits, these songs are as imprecise and free-ranging as the debris after a starship battle (Did we mention the recurring Sci-Fi visuals throughout Monster Magnet's career?). It's fascinating to behold, and fine to listen to, but it's embryonic and rough, not up to the bar of excellence these guys would later establish.


As for the two records, "Tab" is only four songs deep, but the title track is literally longer than either of the “Tubular Bells” songs. That’s a lot of fuzzy, noisy drifting, interspersed by flashes of the brilliance to come. “Spine of God” feels more like the next step in the MM evolutionary chain, with the previous exploratory motifs compacted into 3-8 minute packages. The best of the bunch, "Ozium," does its meandering, but also works as a decent Monster Magnet song.
As a Dave Wyndorf fan, I enjoyed hearing these raw recordings, but they're not the place to start with his band. The two records are fine, but not really even indispensable. If you're deep into them or a fanatical completist, then by all means, check these re-releases out. If you’re more casual, then you can still hear good stuff here, but you’d be better off going and listening to Dopes to Infinity or Powertrip. Either way, these re-releases will have to tide us over, while we wait for new Monster Magnet material.


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