by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

III: Over The Under (ILG)

Down are back on track after a second album came at the wrong time and went by quickly, despite a flurry of press, mainly over its unique recording circumstances. The third installment finds the band recording wet and wonderful like Cathedral but even messier, but for the most part plying a wide mid-paced spectrum. Jimmy Bower's drums go ka-pow and then echo like cannons in a bog. Rex plays bubbling, turbulent bass lines like the old school, although his note choices are barely discernible amidst the sludge. Pepper and Kirk dish the sinister Katrina-flooded sobbing riffery of moldy old clapboards left to poison and rot before being bulldozed. O'ertop, Philip turns in a bunch of singing styles which are powerful but sad, many of his pleas sounding from a drowned place, as the roil of Pepper, Kirk and Rex cascades over Phil frequencies that approximate those of the riffs and thus are a bit back behind the tool shed. There's a point to be made that there are many bands doing this kind of music as well and even better, but having five richly historic personalities in Down aids the story, and adds starry dimension to what's going on, especially given the fact that Phil is writing panic attack lyrics way above the stoner fray. I also find it endearing that these guys have agreed upon this kind of music as something inevitable because it's in their DNA, presumably not forced, a home. One supposes it's furthest away from the accumulated Phil catalogue than any of the other guys (and technically Rex's I guess), but nonetheless it's cozy, gauzy solace to hear these guys just put their heads down and pummel the groove, chase tone and let the wattage spill where it may.
Rating 9

4-Way Diablo (SPV)

Got this the same time as the new Moonspell and both are strangely unwelcome even before the spins start. And dealing with this one, well, the title is horrible but the cover art is Motorhead good. Musically, yer back to a confirmation of the first sentiment - Monster Magnet's sound has outstayed its welcome, this idea of strumming loudly a bunch of old garage rock patterns with semi-shock/faux-Sixx 'n' Simmons soundbites as lyrics... I'm just not caring. Extreme production used to prop up Dave's simple songs, but the crackly or burbly psych sounds have been sanitized away in these SPV years to the point of irritation at the incongruousness of this "dangerous" band picking the most corporate tones one could imagine. All you're left with is boring da-da-da music and the force of Dave's personality as a lyricist and a vocalist. He's good at both, but the verbose, thespian substance of four or five previous records, especially Power Trip (personal fave), is enough to sustain. Wouldn't call him a one trick pony, but it's getting close to that, because he seems to be addressing only the hard psych authenticity (again, the rudimentary songwriting, not the knob-job) of the expensive records in his collection, which are mostly simple, predictable, strummery and non-riffy.
Rating 4

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