The category of stoner rock has become so broad in definition it's become hipster jargon at this point. Really, if you want to discuss what stoner rock's about, you need turn no further than one of the pioneers themselves, MONSTER MAGNET. On their tenth album, "The Last Patrol", Dave Wyndorf and company dial back into what made the band counterculture legends in the first place. Vintage instruments beget a vintage sound carrying the enlightened view of a mid-fifties rocker. Together spelling one hell of a reinvention.
In many ways, "The Last Patrol" is the bastard offspring of "Spine of God" and "Dopes to Infinity" hitting its maturation phase. It's more grown-up, nowhere near as insubordinate and buzz-hungry as MONSTER MAGNET's early years. Back in the day, MONSTER MAGNET was the farcical, reefer rock reflection of "Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby". In the goofy, space-toked world of MONSTER MAGNET, Galactus might as well be a satanic pusher instead of consumer of planets, with the Silver Surfer serving as his celestial dope dealer. Now, as the lone remnant of the original lineup, there's somewhat more of a conscience playing in Wyndorf's creative process on "The Last Patrol", as well as tons of drive and energy. Good news for MONSTER MAGNET purists, there are more than a few smacks of those reliable pleasure-seeking psychedelics filtering through the afterburners of a peyote-fueled rocket aimed toward the moon and the hidey-hole crater of Copernicus.
This time, Dave Wyndorf has wrangled in the nutjob alter-realities, comic book arcs, John Carter of Mars adventures, jokey brushes with the arcane, and echoes of HAWKWIND that have served as his verve. Still shooting for the stars, Wyndorf describes the songs of "The Last Patrol" as "a kind of Space-Noir, tales of cosmic revenge, peaking libidos, alienation and epic strangeness. It's a weird trip through the back alleys of a dark, retro-future, which not by coincidence very much resembles my own life". For certain, there's a twisted, self-flogging confessional on the crawling "I Live Behind the Clouds", a song testifying to Wyndorf's overdose on sleeping pills in 2006. As the man himself implores, "my wings are ragged and my soul is cold, I'm so tired of floating above." Whether or not this is indicative of a future intent to hang up rock 'n roll remains to be seen, but the haunting urgency staked by "I Live Behind the Clouds" carries well into the remainder of the album, as if ride number ten has a known stop sign at its end.
"The Last Patrol" is partly-stuffed with big-time rockers, i.e. "Mindless Ones", "End of Time" and "Hallelujah" and also with organic, slower-baked toke jams such as "I Live Behind the Clouds", "Stay Tuned", "Paradise" and "The Duke (of Supernature)". The 9:24 title track is a self-contained stoner epic with more than half of it dedicated to carefully sculpted distortion and hallucinogenic eddies, held tight by the girth of Wyndorf's checked-down wailing, relentlessly funky tempos from drummer Rob Pantella and a supplemental conga section. Groove and psychedelics fuse to transcendental perfection through "The Last Patrol"'s calypso vacuum.
The bongo and simulated sitar interludes spread throughout the doom-bombed cover of Donovan's "Three Kingfishers" hijack the tune with such convincingness it almost presumes to be a droning MONSTER MAGNET standard. The guitar solo on "Three Kingfishers" is super-freaky and far-reaching, dumping the listener into the groovy percussion and acoustic-filled expanse of "Paradise". "Paradise"'s earthy textures give the static guitar lofts and twanging feedbacks extra swirl.
As sweaty and driving as the 7:45 "End of Time" is, the continuous crush of the tune pounds for more than five minutes straight before settling into a mid-tempo finale heaped with restless guitar theatrics and a hissing aqueduct slipping into the ghostly channels of "Stay Tuned". The latter seizes the opportunity to dress up the song's melancholic acoustic lines with wistful electric improv overtop, producing mystic airs assimilated from the pig floating realm of PINK FLOYD.
Of course, "Stay Tuned" leaves MONSTER MAGNET fans with a double entendre, thus it's best to simply appreciate what Dave Wyndorf has left with "The Last Patrol" if it ends up becoming the final spin though his great space coaster. No negasonic teenage warheads to be found here, but there's still plenty of blast left in Wyndorf's fuzzbombing compound.