What once was Nick Oliveri’s side project (founded in 1997), Mondo Generator has become the vocalist/bassist’s primary project. In recent years he had been a founding member of stoner rockers Kyuss, and one of only two permanent members of Queens of the Stone Age, along with (former) friend Josh Homme. Now, a couple of years removed from his dismissal from Queens after a falling out with Homme, Oliveri has delivered a new Mondo Generator album, and it has found its release a mere few weeks after the latest Queens of the Stone Age album.
For the record, I am not the biggest fan of either Kyuss or Queens, although both of them have some good stuff out there. Now, I am faced with listening to my first Mondo Generator album. My reaction is decidedly mixed, resulting in an album I find to fall squarely in the middle range.
Mondo Generator is Nick Oliveri (bass/vocals), Ian Taylor (guitar/backing vocals), Spud (guitar), and Ernie Longoria (drums), plus a host of guests throughout, all names I am not familiar with. The album, Dead Planet, was recorded at Dave Grohl’s home studio. It is an intriguing mix of punk and rock influences blended into a raw essence that is as alluring as it is off-putting.
Upon first listen, I actually had a hard time getting through it. It was the combination of listening to it at work and the vocal style that gave me the hardest time. Yes, I know. Work is not the ideal place to make an initial listen to an album, it is much better suited to the stuff you know and can hum along to while you try to focus on the day job, while waiting to get to the night job. Still, I listen to what I can, when I can, and the stars aligned for Mondo Generator to hit the mix and try to win me over in a rather difficult situation. Oliveri’s screaming style just grated on my ears, I just did not particularly care for it, and while not being able to pay full attention, the punk influences took the forefront and just rubbed me the wrong way. Man, this initial listening slot was a big mistake.
Anyway, I have since been able to give it a listen in slightly better environment, and my reactions have changed, albeit slowly. I still cannot completely get behind the screaming style that he employed for much of the album, although it feels so right to hear it that way. Strange, I know, but I am not sure how else to say it. Other times he brings a cleaner, more melodic sound to the fore, and I like that much better, but again, it would not work for the album as a whole. If you couldn’t tell, this has left me quite conflicted. On top of that, there is some good lyrical content throughout, at times it sounds like Oliveri is doing some soul searching, binging and purging if you will. That idea came out strongest on “So High” which sounds like an apology for himself and to his girlfriend, of whom I have read he was physically abusive with (which reportedly was a piece that led to his dismissal from Queens of the Stone Age).
What truly won me over, and is continuing to do so, is the music. It is true that I tend to prefer music that is a bit more structured, or technical in nature, I can sometimes be enticed by something with a more raw energy vibing through it. Mondo Generator has a raw openness to it that, at times, plays that line between open punkish rock and roll and a more structured rock sound. It is a blend that works almost entirely through the album. There are some excellent riffs, melodic lines, inventive drumming, and an overall originality that succeeded in sucking me in.
Songs to pay attention to include “She Only Knows You,” “Lie Detector,” “Like a Bomb,” “So High,” “Take Me Away,” and “Bloody Hammer.” And let’s not forget their version of Sam Hall, using the Johnny Cash arrangement, but sounding nothing like Cash.
Bottomline: Overall, it may not be a great album, but there is a lot of good stuff to dig into. I’m not sure I will ever truly like his voice, but there is no denying the quality of the music. This is an album that, if it is your first experience with them (like me), it will likely take a few listens to really get into it before it moves into anything resembling a rewarding experience. It proved to be worth the effort.
Video for “Lie Detector”: