Monster Magnet & Puppy
@ Electric Brixton
29th January 2019
Review By: Beandog
Photography By: Michelle Murphy
Brixton is easily one of London’s more vibrant districts. Always teeming with visitors and busy locals, its streets are heavy with an eclectic mix of cafes, traders, bars and boutiques. It’s also an area of the capital with a rich connection to the artistic and alternative. It’s unsurprising that this diverse scene attracts some unique personalities.
Indeed, as I stand outside a shop to have a quick snack on a packet of seeds (yeah, I know. Give me a break. It’s the new year – I’m trying to lose some of the Christmas weight!) a young, professionally dressed woman asks me what I’m eating and stands silently with me for a brief moment, picking and nibbling the seeds from my upturned palm before she thanks me and walks away.
Much of Brixton’s quirky appeal centres on the music venues scattered throughout the area. Walking to the location of tonight’s gig with all of the above on my mind, I consider that Brixton also holds the notoriety of being the drugs capital of London. This is viewed from different angles. Brixton has been chastised for its “open market” in the town centre – if you want it, you will find it – but it’s also a place that has historically adopted a progressive and deliberately soft approach on cannabis prosecution.
It’s much to take in but it all appears to add up to an appropriate environment to catch up with Monster Magnet: A legendary band who have built their reputation on the sort of psychedelic, mind-altering rock and roll that celebrates the outsider and encourages the listener to free their mind – whether that be chemically enhanced or just via the formidable and transformative power of the riff.
I arrive at Electric Brixton just in time to catch Puppy. A London three piece, celebrating the recent release of their debut album: The Goat. They seem pleased to be playing to a hometown crowd on a tour that has looped them across Europe under the wing of the headliners.
“Puppy” is a good analogy for the British band. They’re friendly and energetic, but with a enough bite to do some damage when they want to.
As they crack on with their set, I do find myself thinking they are a bit of an odd pairing with tonight’s main event. In contrast to the trippy space-rock due to start in an hour’s time, there is more of a nineties, brit-rock feel about Puppy. I’d put them in the same ball park as a band like Feeder or Three Colours Red. Other parts of their set remind me of Weezer.
Despite these references, the drummer’s Pantera T-Shirt aspires towards a heavier sound – as does his heavy hitting style – and they do pull a few hearty riffs out of the bag. However, generally this is melodic (albeit solid and crunchy), pop-orientated rock that, while entertaining enough, is not quite enough to satisfy the meatier appetite of a Monster Magnet crowd.
As if to prove that point, the collective cheer that greets the headliners as they stride onto the stage confirms there is only one band people have come here to see tonight.
Setting their anchor with the lurching riff of Dopes To Infinity, Dave Wyndorf and crew cut in with a massive, interstellar groove that swings like a pendulum. The weight of the music is enhanced by having three guitars chopping out the heavier sections and the response from the crowd is immediate and appropriately colossal.
With a relatively new album to celebrate, Monster Magnet follow their opening song with the snotty glam-rock of Rocket Freak from last year’s Mindfucker LP. The transition sets a pace the band adheres to for the entire set. One song straight into another. Bang. Bang. Bang.
Wyndorf plays the wild preacher throughout, evoking the crowd with his fire and brimstone proclamations of rock worship. Crop Circle is received with rapture while Radiation Day and Melt gives us a reminder that the band’s middle-era career was just as exciting as the well-regarded album-trio of Superjudge, Dopes To Infinity and Powertrip. These classic records are well represented tonight, all three being highlights in an impressive career that has spanned more than ten albums across twenty five years!
Of course, the benefit of having decades of experience is that it ensures a completely confident and powerful performance. When Dave Wyndorf bellows, “I talk to planets baby!” over the thumping Ego, The Living Planet, it is with complete conviction in his band’s ability to provide a crushing soundtrack that gives as much energy to the old favourites as it does to newer tracks like When The Hammer Comes Down.
The main set concludes with the undeniable pairing of Negasonic Teenage Warhead with Space Lord, which comes complete with lungfuls of audience participation on the “Space Lord, motherfucker!” chorus.
While relatively short for a headlining set, the gig has been a complete triumph. Monster Magnet leave the stage but the house lights stay down, indicating the inevitable…
After a few minutes of noisy appreciation, the band re-emerges – initially without their frontman – for a psychedelic but potent rendition of CNN War Theme. The song crescendos towards Dave’s return and a parting gift of two more songs.
Dinosaur Vacume‘s steady, driving pace has the crowd snapping their necks to the rhythm and warming them up for the final, climactic sing-a-long to the choruses of Powertrip.
There is an irony in hearing a Tuesday night crowd singing, “I’m never gonna work another day in my life.” The undeniable truth is most of us will have work in the morning – but that isn’t the point. This 1998 anthem has become such an affirming song to bellow out. It carries aspirations of a life that feels a bit freer and it’s unsurprising to hear the collective voices in the room coming together to almost drown out the music.
It’s been a fantastic evening.
Monster Magnet completely justified their success and longevity tonight. Great songs performed with passion. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Monster Magnet Setlist:
Dopes to Infinity
Look to Your Orb for the Warning
Ego, the Living Planet
When the Hammer Comes Down
Negasonic Teenage Warhead
CNN War Theme