1. Why did they make this album? What was the passion or message that forced them to produce what they have? Or, simply what was their motivation for the themes they chose for this album?
“From deep in the cosmos of Iowa comes a force known as Mondo Drag!” “With a wall of sound all their own, an arsenal of guitars, and a head full of clouds, they are on a rock n roll mission all their own” .
In early 2010, the band released their album 'New Rituals' on Alive Records and have been flying head first into the future ever since.” “Within the span of the last few months, the band has completed multiple tours, played a handful of showcases at SXSW, and performed at Austin Psych Fest 3.
“Since their start Mondo Drag has had the privilege of playing with such artists as: Sleepy Sun, Dead Meadow, Witchcraft, Black Diamond Heavies, Radio Moscow, Jennifer Gentle, The Dodos, La Otracina, Cass McCombs, Cave, Awesome Color, Monotonix, Pentagram, The Black Angels, High On Fire, and The Black Keys just to name a few”(Mondo Drag - MySpace, 2010).
2. What message are they delivering through their lyrics and music?
1. New Rituals – This song hits you like you have been sleeping and suddenly awake in a time warp from the 1960 or 70s. These guys have really captured the feeling of the jam band music from that era so well. Free flowing and relaxed. Imagine Cream or Black Sabbath heavy bass and guitars, with spacey Pink Floyd elements and Jane’s Addiction – like vocals. Electrifying to say the least.
The heavy bass and roaring guitars that welcome you back fill the room. The cool distortion takes you back to a place you remember but haven’t seemed to be able to get back to in a while. The crashing drums and cool synth loops and sounds of the organs are electric and full of life. The effects are awesome as the melody begins to roll and lift the sound. Then, an almost ‘Jane’s Addiction – like’ vocals and the lyrics roll out, “space day and it will keep you running as long as they can.” A great combination of 60/70s music with more recent vocal delivery. This is one of the best songs on the album and it just bursts this album and band onto the scene in a way that few of the other songs on the album could have. The early Pink Floyd ‘weeping guitars’ pulsing in and out along with that central revving of the bass and drums really creates a soundscape that is incredible to hear. Bells, and so many other sounds to discover, you’ll be busy trying to appreciate this epic for a while. Hope to see this live in the future.
The edgy guitars and sounds are otherworldly. This one pounds with dynamic sound and really opens this album perfectly. Enough power in one song to fill an album, but there is so much more to enjoy. A 9:01 epic that leaves you wondering what can they do to top it. The epic up front, finally, where it belongs!
2. Light As A Feather – A trudging, lumbering, massive river flowing, powerhouse of riffs, to follow the opener. Light as a Feather, no way this is heavy. Power guitars and drums that rock the walls. The sound effects and noises present, echo off the walls as the roaring dyna - blast shakes the windows and doors. This one will rock you down to the bone. The organs break through to add just the right element of distraction and harmony. This song is a monster. Play it loud, you can thank them later.
3. Love Me (Like a Stranger) – There is a very short separation between this and the last song which is wonderful. It almost sounds like a suite. This one continues that grinding roaring bass and drum assault. This time the vocals are right in your face. The organs play a more dominant role in this song. Then the mood slows and you get those distorted lead guitars and that weeping sound most associated with the spacey sound of Pink Floyd. The almost quiet calm that surrounds this song is a wonderful contrast to Light as a Feather. The ripping ‘Jefferson Airplane – like’ guitars and those melodic organs grooving in and out just magnify the power. The guitar solos will bring back so many memories of the past, yet this is original music. Those vocals reach out and bring you into the experience. But the music is so loud and full of bass, it’s hard to understand what is being said. “Can you walk away?” “Nothing will change.” The backing vocals and effects of the echo like chamber bring back that wall of sound so effectively. But this is no two dimensional wall, it’s a three dimensional surrounding chasm of electric sound. 4:57 minutes of bliss.
4. Come Through – An acoustic, bluesy, distorted vocals, opening to this one. The electric guitar and harmonica sounding riffs give you that Led Zep III feeling all over. Unfortunately it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album and ends all too quickly, just when you are appreciating the depth of the moment.
5. Fade Out – Pick up the pace, here come those galloping guitars and bass. A cruising, rocking song full of bass and drums. The electric riffs are hot and weave in and out throughout this piece. The vocals are in your face. Very Jeff Airplane guitar sounds, and it gets even better with the Doors - like organ that enters and provides the melody. Then those soaring and ripping leads that just slice the air and rip and tug at the rhythm. Unfortunately this one is the shortest track on the album and it ends way too soon.
6. Serpent Shake – Back to the lumbering bass and drums. This one jumps at you like something from out of the depths of the 70s. Full of distortion and heavy lead and bass guitar. Like the Valkyrie of Immigrant Song barring down and roaring at you at the speed of sound. Then, they slow it down and you get the windmill like guitar and organ effects that bring back memories of the best of Pink Floyd’s earlier works. Is it possible to bring the power of Immigrant Song and the ethereal dreaming of the music to Eclipse from the Dark Side of the Moon together into one song? Well, they do a great job here. Two incredible songs to bring together and with a title like Serpent Shake not what you might expect.
7. True Visions – Slow boom bass and grinding electric. Kind of a Joplin, Piece of My Heart rhythm mixed with bluesy Pink Floyd soul before the distorted vocals kick in. The heavy riffs really set a mood that is very much appreciated. The reeking and shrieking guitar riffs on this one are so memorable. The moody Pink Floyd – like spacey organ and lead that take over midway through the song will have you reminiscing about Dark Side and Meddle. Just a fantastic trip into the past without duplicating.
8. Apple – “I need more cowbell!” This one opens with cowbell as we get a real Cream - like rocker here. It roars off on a fast clip, but slows to bleed out each awesome guitar lick that follows. Deep bass and slow grinding rhythm of the guitar, some parts reminiscent of the Yardbirds early works, before plunging into that rough distortion and reverberation we all remember so well. Just a psychedelic reverb masterpiece. One of my favorites.
9. Black River – My favorite song on the album. Get ready for some White Summer/Black Mountain Side/Bron – Yr Aur Led Zep - like acoustic and electric guitar mixed, along with the galloping percussion. The flute provides the original sound to take your mind into the fields of green where we used to be able to escape the roar and hum of the cities. Just a perfect summer/spring song of reflection and relaxation after the mind expanding and blowing guitar work that has proceeded. You can almost feel yourself rolling down that warm river on a raft. This one is also over way too fast.
10. My, Oh My – Hard guitar and thumping drums are back with power and even more grind. Those early 60s harmony vocals along with the power chords really bring back memories. There is a very cool jam session as the song rolls towards its end. Nice fade out at the end.
11. Tallest Tales – The finale. How do you end such a complete album with loads of firepower? The answer comes quickly with a very strong solid bass followed by power chords and some of the best vocals on the album. The cowbell is back and used sparingly enough for effect. The ripping guitars roll like waves on the ocean as the melody slips through the backing power grind. It’s hard to describe this sound. I know I’ve heard it before, but there is a great combination of allot of bands from the 70s, enough variation to make it original. The drums, which have been an ever present support are even better on this song. Then they drift into an almost spaghetti western motif around the 4:00 minute mark. This is an excellent sound which I hope they will develop and do more of on the next album. The slow pluck of the strings and the string section accompaniment really adds to the dramatic effect. Then they cut loose for one more ear blasting organ, drum, bass synth and guitar assault, before the fade away.
3. Does this music improve, change, or add to the genre? What does the listener receive from listening to the music?
From that Sgt. Pepper’s motif on the front cover to the sounds that fill this album, you know you are going back in time to something that you thought was gone forever. This was a wonderful surprise in what has been a quiet year of new music. This is an example of the kind of music I used to lie awake at night and groove to as a young adolescent. Those driving bass lines, the ripping blues laden guitar. Those wonderful organ sounds. The flute. Nothing’s missing from the memory of those electric albums that now sit in frames on the wall. This music captures that spirit and sound better than many of the new albums I have heard in recent years.
The lyrics are hard to understand, but so was REM’s Michael Stipe for a while and their music rocked. There is no doubt in my mind these guys know how to rock. I am looking forward to someday seeing these guys play all of this and more live.
This music does not fit any specific category or genre. It fits into many. There are elements of any of a number of genres, like heavy metal, heavy prog, jam rock, psychedelic and even folk rock at times. Their music is dynamic and does not fit neatly into any one category. Probably why they sent their CD to us. Although we love prog, we like hearing anything that is good, no matter what category it may fit into. This is a keeper.
4. Does it have longevity? Is it something a fan will like to play again and again?
Oh yeah. Been listening to it on regular rotation ever since it first arrived. Loved the first song the minute I heard it. After that all the rest of it fit the kind of music I have been missing and listening to from the past in absence of any similar in the present.
Rating: 9/10 – The vocals are good, but difficult to understand. I like lyrics and stories, so that makes it hard to give this album a perfect score. But the music is definitely just what the doctor ordered. I think the vocalist’s voice sounds good, but he is eclipsed by the power of everything else around him. It is very hard to compete with the power of those drums, bass and lead guitars. The vocals get lost in the mix. If they can iron that out I think this band will be on more than just my constant playlist!
Reviewed by Prof on May 19th, 2010