Album Review: Monster Magnet – Test Patterns: Vol 1

Monster Magnet

Album Review: Monster Magnet - Test Patterns: Vol 1
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings

There are some releases that leave you scratching your head as to why they have been put out. ‘Test Patterns Vol 1’ is one such release. There seems to be little rhyme or reason for it. However, for diehard fans of the New Jersey outfit, the issue of the two demos that formed the base of 1991’s ‘Spine of God’ are possibly essential listening and certainly of interest for the two tracks here form the foundation for the band who would become a slick, stoner/psychedelic outfit who would quickly ride the 1990s stoner wave with some legendary albums.

‘Test Patterns: Vol 1’ comprises the original demo ‘TAB’, recorded in 1988 and released in 1989’s ‘Forget About Life, I’m High on Dope’ and a 2021 remix of ‘TAB’ by original member John McBrain.

It’s a trip which you’ll possibly need chemical enhancements to fully appreciate. A 25-minute swirling space driven ride of total weirdness, flicking between calming, soothing noise and chaotic heaviness which really meses with the mind. At times ‘TAB’ drones quite monotonously with the constant repetition obviously part of the charm. Trippy narrative is scattered throughout the piece, which will either grate or add to the psychedelic journey. Dave Wyndorf’s howling vocal delivery adds to the madness. It’s definitively of its time though and sounds somewhat dated despite the warmth of retrospection.
Album Review: Monster Magnet - Test Patterns: Vol 1
It may be that Tim Cronin’s explanation makes more sense. “When Magnet started, John and I worked in record stores in Red Bank and Dave worked in the comic bookstore and we made a lot of tapes for each other. A lot of ‘check this shit out’ kind of stuff…Hawkwind, early UFO, Amon Duul, Can, Skullflower, Morgen, Loop, Crystalized Movements, early Alice Cooper, Walking Seeds, Butthole Surfers, Spacemen 3. When we recorded the first demo and got to TAB, we just beat the shit out of it until it became heavy, noisy, weird, mean and either too long or not long enough, depending on your mood. Everything we wanted in a song (at least everything I wanted in a song), punishingly psychedelic. Jersey Shore krautrock”.

It’s probably better to immerse oneself in the original first, because McBain has increased the intensity substantially in the remix, leading to an even more fantastical kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and experiences. It’s a journey which adds to the original, albeit in a minimal way. For a fan of Monster Magnet, it is certainly of minor interest to hear the beginnings of the band whose behaviour at the time was less than pleasant. For those around then, this may be a variable voyage, depending on your experience at the time. But it’s probably one for the dedicated fan more than the more casual listener.

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