My good old Honda motorcycle is pretty reliable, if a bit beaten-up-looking, but it does need its regular tune-ups almost as much as its owner needs his sit-ups. When I dropped it off at the shop yesterday, the guys there had a classic album from Monster Magnet on the stereo, a band who, along with Kyuss and Sleep, basically invented stoner metal, a sludgy genre inspired by both '60s psychedelia and '70s hard rock. I haven't been anywhere near weed in, like, 15 years (I know Jonathan Stein doesn't believe me, but it's true!) and yet I still love the music's combination of rumbling weight and melodic complexity; here's five classic tracks to zone out to from the genre's mid-'90s heyday. They're enjoyable even if you're not on the, er, Pineapple Express.
1. Kyuss "Molten Universe" (from Blues for the Red Sun, 1993)
A classic from the band that spawned Queens of the Stone Age, the whole album is revelatory, but this instrumental number showcases the intricate playing by Josh Homme on a guitar apparently tuned down two octaves for even more sludgy goodness.
2. Monster Magnet "Pill Shovel" (from Spine of God, 1992)
While the New Jersey combo may have devolved into Rob Zombie-like self-parodies in their later years, back before their rock radio hits they made 30-minute jams and put sci-fi weirdness on their album covers. This track's a little more straightforward, but still features thick reverb and menacing Eastern tones.
3. Clutch "Spacegrass" (from Clutch, 1995)
Clutch have as much in common with prog-metal bands like Primus as they do with Kyuss, willing to leave out the drums for a whole verse and then scream their heads off in the chorus, but the sludgy groove keeps them firmly on Earth.
4. Sleep "Dragonaut" (from Sleep's Holy Mountain, 1995)
One of the great underappreciated bands of the era, Sleep formed in San Jose and set their sights on Black Sabbath, but their weed-addled brains got a little lost. On "Dragonaut," they let the gloomy grooves evolve at a languid pace, although they would eventually push patience to the extreme with a 50-minute song. That, my friends, must have been some good pot.
5. Fu Manchu "Asphalt Risin'" (from In Search Of
This SoCal band evidences a little more of the stoner stereotype: inconsistency and a tendency to devolve towards in-joke kookiness. When they hold it together, though, they sound awesome: the guitar lines in the chorus seem pulled down by their own weight.