Monster Magnet – Last Patrol

Ever since they opened for Jane’s Addiction back in the day and turned Black Sabbath’s hit single “Paranoid into a 45-minute long psychedelic space odyssey (although it might have been Hawkwind’s “Paranoia,” nobody knows for sure), Monster Magnet have been a driving force in the scene of stoner rock. Since flirting with mainstream success in the late 90s, the band let their formula stay fairly consistent throughout their career. If you pick up a Monster Magnet record, you know right off the bat that you’ll get a solid slab of stoner tunes fit for a late-night cruise along the rings of Saturn in a vintage sharkfin Cadillac. While most of the desert rock scene pioneered by Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and Nebula has disappeared over the horizon, Monster Magnet have kept the torch lit and kept the smoke in the air. Last Patrol is the latest offering in this grand tradition, and it fits the mode of psychedelic voyage music well – maybe a bit too well for its own good.

The problem with Last Patrol, if you think of it as a problem, is that everything in between the lighter acoustic bookends runs together into an hour-long maelstrom of swirling Hawkwind-indebted psychedelia. I love this kind of music as much as the next long-haired hippie, but there’s very little across the running time that stands out aside from a few killer solos – even the band’s interpretation of Donovan’s “Three Kingfishers” sounds just like everything else on the album, which does speak to the cohesiveness of their sound, but also to the saminess of the record. It all blends together into a universe of effects pads, fuzzy guitars, quasi-Eastern strings, and Dave Wyndorf‘s sunburnt vocals. This is all great to put on in the background and create an atmosphere, but it never really grabs your attention the way the best of their work does. It’s pleasant and inoffensive, sure, but it’s not distinctive. There’s a curious lack of hooks and memorable riffs across the album’s running time, but the acoustics, production, and atmosphere are enough to set the mood. So if all you want from your music is mood, you’re in luck.

Overall, I think the best way to think of Last Patrol is in the sense of a good smoke session. It’s plenty entertaining at the time, doesn’t demand much from the participant, and you’ll undoubtedly have plenty of fun. But you won’t be able to remember much of what happened, and there’s probably better ways you could have spent your time in retrospect. That’s not to say that you won’t be entertained, though. If you’re going to be taking your vintage muscle car for a spin in the deserts of Mars anytime soon (or any deserts, for that matter), this is an ideal soundtrack for such an occasion. If you’re looking for music that demands more attention, however, you can pretty safely give this a miss in favor of something more arresting.

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