Monster Magnet - Tab - (6/10)
Published on October 28, 2017
We’re talking stoner rock today and, really, there are only two bands worth mentioning. If you’re going to take anything away from reading, it’s that Monster Magnet are in all probability the more influential of the two, especially seeing as Kyuss opted for a more dynamic, often punky, approach that can be witnessed on songs like “Green Machine”. The more laidback, though equally jam-oriented New Jersey band made a name by splattering a host of cool retro influences across their psychedelic sound, singing about drugs, and doing the same ones as Hawkwind (there’s the same rumour of an audience dosed with LSD), all while inventing stoner rock from a totally different angle to their famous Californian peers. Despite all the substances, it’s Dave Wyndorf’s crew who have stuck around the longest, which brings us on to the fact that it’s been 26 years since Tab (variously referred to as Tab 25 and 25 Tab) was recorded, leading Napalm Records to reissue it again following on from Steamhammer’s 2006 version.
Judging by the songs on this EP (it’s 49 minutes without the bonus track, but we’ll get to the why and wherefore in a moment), it wasn’t named for Wyndorf’s love of guitar tabs, but rather for the acidic variety, which the listener thankfully has no need to stock up on since the opening song helpfully replicates the experience of swallowing a few in audio form. The huge shimmer of reverb that greets the listener is one indication of where this is headed, as is the gradual, fuzzed-up riff that gets into stride at the outset, though the true extent of the 32 minute song may seem longer than it is due to the slowness of the evolution that the music goes through. Hazy distorted vocal noise (no actual lyrics, it would seem) come and go along with a host of spacey noises, the same riff having all sorts of additional features loaded onto it as it rumbles on, including samplings of somebody that sounds a lot like Wyndorf rambling about various subjects, one of which is a story that takes in plenty of drugs and violence. Perhaps a mammoth audiobiography of life to that point.
The other songs form more of an entry point for those getting used to Monster Magnet’s world, “25 / Longhair” spending plenty of time leaning on a wah-wah pedal after the initial driving fuzzy riffs, the first part of the spliced track proving just about the most orthodox for the Magnet at this point in their careers. “Longhair” and “Lord 13” let things drop down a notch, incorporating more traditional rock chord structures and a generally retro ‘70s feel that chills the recording out as it goes on. However, the placing of these simpler songs after the marathon of “Tab” makes them feel slightly inconsequential, though they could still form singalongs for the high and the strange.
One complaint that could easily be made about this reissue is that the only extra material available to listeners is the same track from the Steamhammer version, which is a pretty bad live recording of “Spine of God” from the album of the same name, recorded slightly after Tab but released ahead of it. At the beginning, there’s an amusing snatch of crowd banter where one punter close to the microphone says, “I need to get a drink,” just after the band have played the opening notes. Other than that, there are a few differences to the album version, but the crappiness of the sound quality makes this a mere curiosity that will be listened to a few times and discarded. The other songs are presumably all remastered, since there is no evidence of any bumps in the studio sound.
As such, this is a disappointing reissue from the perspective of those who already own Tab, though it’s another chance to catch up on some interesting and far-out early stoner for those who never experienced this side of the band before. The extreme repetition and whacked nature of the title track also points to the reason why Monster Magnet were dubbed “drug rock”, whereas Kyuss were given the slightly more measured term of “desert rock”. On a separate note, this re-release coincides with a similar one for Spine of God, the more completely satisfying album released around the same time. If you have neither, your money may be better spent investing in that instead.