Never mind the white-rappers-on-steroids metallurgy of Korn and Limp Bizkit: the real hard-rock renaissance band is this quintet from Red Bank, New Jersey. Last summer Monster Magnet capped off years of bongwater-drenched underground releases and a pair of heady major-label records (1993's Superjudge and 1995's Dopes to Infinity) with the staggering Powertrip (A & M), the best heavy-rock album since Soundgarden's Superunknown. Conceived in three weeks, during which Magnet magnate Dave Wyndorf locked himself in a Las Vegas fleabag motel and wrote a song a day, the album keeps things simple, melodic, and rhythmically propulsive. Lean, large riffs that rely less on distortion than on full tone and precise attack are the rule: the stop-start one-four-five chord pattern of "Tractor" jumps atop the heavy drums like bare feet on hot coals, and the surges and swings of "Bummer" make its seven and a half minutes of tough boogie feel more like three. These guys aren't afraid to delay a song's climax for maximum effect (see the characteristically tense hit "Space Lord"), and they're still adept at less restrained guitar excursions--"Tractor" eventually crashes into a scabrous wah-wah meltdown that recalls the Velvet Underground's "I Heard Her Call My Name." Plus we get curveballs like the reverberating rockabilly licks of "19 Witches," the Mysterians-style Farfisa of "See You in Hell," and the spare, spooky Morricone-isms of the closer, "Your Lies Become You." Live, Monster Magnet's a little unfocused--Wyndorf patters too much, basically--but their encore version of "Kick Out the Jams" alone is worth the price of admission. Tuesday, 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. MICHAELANGELO MATOS
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Eder.