God of Thunder 

Monster Magnet’s Dave Wyndorf isn’t your average rock & roll uncle.

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They call him “Crazy” Uncle Dave. It’s not hard to understand why. Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf would freak any kid out, with the oil-spill mane, the all-leather wardrobe, the suspicion that he has tea with Satan once a month. But Wyndorf’s 30 or so nieces and nephews didn’t really know much about him beyond his homebody persona: a goofy guy who shows up for a couple of months at a time and then leaves. Until last Halloween, when Wyndorf decided it was time his family got to know a little more about Crazy Uncle Dave. Monster Magnet was rehearsing for its European tour, so he invited the entire clan to come down and watch the group perform.

Sound AffectsTHE CULT Beyond Good and Evil (Atlantic) Ian Astbury’s lone-wolf howl is so unmistakable, this collection of new material (the band’s first since ’94) is instantly recognizable as The Cult, even though the big rawk hooks that sent Sonic Temple through the roof are mostly MIA. Mystic-metal moments like “War” and “Rise” are as deafeningly divine as anything Astbury and Billy Duffy have ever produced, but the rest is almost too self-consciously heavy for its own good—been absorbing much Pantera on those comeback tours? Redeeming Electric-like flash: closing cut “My Bridges Burn.”

SHEA SEGER The May Street Project (RCA) If the sheer talent and hype behind Nikka Costa don’t break her as the (rightful) Next Hot Thang, 21-year-old Shea Seger probably doesn’t stand a commercial chance, either. Seger wraps her sultry, soulful rasp around folk-pop, trip-hop, Southern rock and more within 12 perfect songs that shouldn’t logically belong on the same album, but her debut package still works it like a musicologist’s wet dream. The final cuts, the rollicking “I Can’t Lie” (recalling Joan Osborne’s blues-mama epiphanies) and the dreamy “May Street” (ditto, Beth Orton’s techno-folk dubs), are worth the price alone. The production gloss that tries to pass for lo-fi indifference notwithstanding, Seger’s first outing is too cool to be ignored.

TRAVIS The Invisible Band (Epic) The most anticipated album of the year (according to Epic media) sounds almost exactly like Travis’ 2000 splash, The Man Who. As long as they don’t follow spiritual guides Radiohead into pretension oblivion or fall apart in the van like road-wimps Coldplay (thanks for canceling last week’s show, wussies), no problem. Again, Fran Healy’s Paul McCartney pop jones is evident from the get-go, but more left-field orchestral maneuvers come into play this time around—“Sing,” the opening track, even has a weirdly perfect banjo line. Crank it, quietly.

GORILLAZ Gorillaz (Virgin) A virtual cartoon band consisting of 2-D (Blur’s Damon Albarn), Murdoc (cartoonist Jamie Hewlett), Russel (rapper Del the Funkee Homosapien) and Noodle (Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori), Gorillaz and producer Dan the Automator have constructed one deviously whacked mess of a “concept” album. Loping reggae beats, old-school hip-hop, chilling cyber-grooves, spaghetti-western atmospherics, silly bubble-punk—it’s like the Archies freestyling with PiL and Grandmaster Flash in Westworld. If that’s not enough, get graphical at www.Gorillaz.com.

—Bill Frost

“We all hung out for awhile and then I got up on stage, screamed my balls off, set my guitar on fire and basically scared the shit out of all of them,” Wyndorf said. “They didn’t know what to think.”

Of course, the next day, the reviews were all good. “They all thought it was the coolest thing. They didn’t know what it was, but they loved it. I think it’s because of the fire. Kids see fire and that’s it,” Wyndorf said.

That formula seems to have worked for more than Wyndorf’s family. For years, Monster Magnet wallowed in the stoner rock underground, pumping out some of the thickest grooves since Blue Oyster Cult played with the Reaper. But the group’s fanbase was limited to those who consider leather armbands an essential fashion accessory. Then came 1998’s Powertrip and the psychedelic megalomania of its single, “Space Lord.” The video was a true show of rock bravado—chicks, explosions, cars and Sin City neon. Suddenly, the quintet was more than cult leader to those who still think concerts need pyrotechnics to be good. And Wyndorf was the rock god he’d always dreamed of being.

But Wyndorf knows that it’s proving time. Powertrip got him his followers; now it’s time for his Sermon on the Mount. But rather than give the same old speech, Wyndorf has opted to strap on a new, shinier codpiece and preach the good word of slow and sludgy rock. The band’s latest disc, God Says No (A&M), has taken the full-frontal force of Powertrip and mellowed it out with a gallon of gin and a handful of downers. Sure, Wyndorf still occasionally bows down to the God of Thunder, with tracks like “Melt” and “Doomsday” packing enough heat to outgun a legion of Green Berets. But then there are smoothed-out and pensive numbers, like the title track and “Queen of You”—stuff meant for cock-rockers looking to get a little sultry. Fer Christ’s sake, the chunky “Cry” sports a sitar.

“I wanted to make a psychedelic rock record, but have it be groovier and something I could sing to,” Wyndorf says. “I just shouted on Powertrip. I still wanted it to show that it’s cool to rock, but I wanted it to be more about tempo and singing.”

Of course, God Says No could have been a completely different album. After Wyndorf finished touring in support of Powertrip, he began working on new material. It was all sticky and themed out, with Wyndorf taking his first crack at the chancy “concept album.” Two weeks before recording was supposed to begin, he was making his way back home to Jersey. At one stop, someone broke into his car, stealing his lyric notebook and four-track tapes.

“I had to work, like, 16 hours a day for two weeks straight to get this done,” Wyndorf says. “I just had to get in this mindset. I had to believe I was this guy—the Monster Magnet guy. I had to be 10 feet tall. I had to be a rock star.”

Thing is, on the road, Wyndorf is that guy. He admits he’s the hedonistic boozehound with an addiction to girls in latex and handcuffs. He’s the ultimate rock god, able to bring down a sonic bomb with the wave of his hand and turn a club into a pagan celebration of carnal lust. It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. When Monster Magnet was in its infancy, Wyndorf just let his imagination go: the mystical collided with the perverted. Suddenly, he says, all those things became reality.

“That’s the one thing about being in a rock band: whatever you write about comes true,” he chuckles. “Before, when I was a kid, I’d write about pot and drugs and sex and turn them into these delusions of grandeur. The stuff you think about when you’re whacking off. But then it all comes true. I say bring it on.”

Wyndorf says he’s going to have to pay for his sins; he’s going to have to face his daughter. Although she’s only 10 now, Wyndorf knows that someday she’ll confront him about his less-than-Christian existence. “How do you explain to your kid that daddy’s been fucking—a lot. He’s been in Denmark in an orgy,” he says, only half-jokingly. “I’m not looking forward to that conversation. But judgement day is coming. I can feel it. And I’m going to have to do it someday.”

In the meantime, Wyndorf has a few other things to worry about, mainly staying in the spotlight. With music currently focused more on the best abs than the best songs, Wyndorf knows that he’s in serious jeopardy of becoming extinct. He’s just hoping that when kids get out of this craptacular teen pop phase, he’ll be around to set them straight.

“It’s like fashion and rhythm have taken over music; it’s more important than the song,” he says. “And bands realize that people aren’t paying attention to the message; they’re just looking at the packaging. It’s almost like a lost art: the rock combo. But things have to change. After 15 years of being fed shit, all these kids will be 30 and looking for something—mainly, a parent and a band that rocks. And we’ll be there to take care of at least one of those.”

The Cult with Monster Magnet and Stabbing Westward. The E Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley, Monday June 25, 7 p.m. Tickets available through Smith’sTix: 467-TIXX, 800-888-TIXX and www.SmithTix.com. u

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Jeff Inman

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