CD Reviews


Monster Magnet Mastermind (Napalm)

You can’t keep a great songwriter down. Despite label problems, personnel issues and ongoing relapses, Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf soldiers on. Now signed to Napalm, he sounds rejuvenated, his patented blend of stoner metal, space rock and psychedelic doom hitting all cylinders in return-to-form Mastermind. Wyndorf, who once wrote an entire album (1998’s Powertrip) in downtown’s Plaza Hotel, presents a journey of addiction and mild recovery in the 12 tracks, and it’s tempting to see them as a dark narrative, starting with the explosive, mind-altering “Hallucination Bomb.” From there, songs take a raunchy, bass-guitar-heavy tack, as on the pounding rave up “100 Million Miles” (“Mama, mama, tell me I ain’t gonna die/Maybe, baby, say you found the Astroglide”) and gothic pill-popping post-punker “Dig That Hole.” Hope is only glimpsed in the brilliant lyrics of album zenith “Gods and Punks” and the stunning “Perish in Fire,” the implicit message being: Get clean or die. Thrilled to hear Wyndorf made the right choice. ★★★★☆


Mini Mansions Mini Mansions (Rekords Rekords)

Bassist Michael Shuman, 25, may have a knack for holding up the bone-rattling bottom end of Queens of the Stone Age, but he’s also quite gifted at crafting baroque pop-rock pastiche. His band Mini Mansions’ self-titled debut, released on Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme’s own label Rekords Rekords, channels The Beatles by way of Elliot Smith and acid-tripping Kurt Weill. In terms of lyrics, it’s pretty much nonsense—“Superglue all your pretty wounds” seems to be a line from the lovely, piano-kaleidoscoped “The Room Outside”—but that’s the cinematic intent. Indeed, in an interview, Shuman’s bandmate Tyler Parkford has described Mini Mansions as having “the effect that you’re watching an invisible movie.” Sure, there’s no plot, but that’s what makes Mini Mansions a deeply rewarding piece of art. If you’ve wondered what The Beatles would’ve sounded like had they pushed deeper into Sgt. Pepper territory, grab this disc and touch the psychedelic diamond-sky expanse of a track like “Majik Marker.” Not a boring side project, for sure. ★★★★☆


Shawn Mullins Light You Up (Vanguard)

Mr. “Lullaby” has managed a low profile and a high-quality career in the 12 years since his 1998 breakout No. 1 Grammy-nominated single. He’s enjoyed continued success with songs featured on TV’s Scrubs and Dawson’s Creek, and although he’s a Georgia boy, his music screams “California,” particularly his subdued James Taylor-esque vocals and big, open guitar chords, which maybe explains why he wrote another wry, cynical song about the Golden State (as if it needs more after The Eagles’ “Hotel California”). Light You Up doesn’t stray from Mullins’ strengths, the only difference being his lyrics are more caustic, his pop instinct sharper. Sure, the title track’s quasi-rap delivery isn’t radical but the way Mullins inhabits the character’s desire to connect in a world adrift feels lived-in. “The Ghost of Johnny Cash” is a powerful country-rock tribute to the legend, while “Tinseltown,” again targeted at the Hollywood set, possesses a soaring hook pushing the line “I don’t wanna go downtown tonight/The neon burns just a little too bright.” A solid effort. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Theater Review

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

By Rosalie Miletich

Tom Stoppard’s plays are notoriously verbose, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is no exception. “The play is definitely about words, words, words,” director Michael Kimm says. “But under the words are three really interesting and complex characters. I just wish I’d had more time to shape that part of the actors’ work.”