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It sounds like the five members of Iowa rock band Mondo Drag have spent a lot of time flipping through old LPs in local record stores, fishing out vinyl from late-‘60s performers like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Blue Cheer, then investigating how to replicate the guitar effects on those records. They may have worn out copies of the original Nuggets collection, too. The result on their debut album, New Rituals, is a set of tracks with the heavy feel of the hard rock of 1968. True to the eclecticism of that era, Mondo Drag throw in slower tempos here and there and even break out acoustic guitars for songs like “Come Through” and “Black River.” But they don’t necessarily stay with one tempo or set of chords throughout an entire track, sometimes shifting abruptly to something else, as when the slow closer “Tallest Tales” suddenly changes gears for a faster, harder coda to end the disc. One big difference between Mondo Drag’s influences and their own performances is that the band de-emphasizes vocals, which, when they are there at all, are low in the mix and distorted. Large sections of New Rituals are instrumental, making this a psychedelic experience given over to guitar textures and spacy soundscapes….by William Ruhlmann…allmusic…~
From deep in the cosmos of Iowa, and from the same interstellar scene that gave you Radio Moscow, comes Mondo Drag, orbiting the planet’s garage, psych, space, sludge and stoner rock. 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.
Formed by Johnnie Cluney (drums/vocals), Nolan Girard (rhythm guitar/vocals), John Gomino (keyboards/saxophone), Dennis Hockaday (bass), and Jake Sheley (lead guitar) the band is flying head-first into the future, while channeling artists from the past; Pink Floyd, Pentagram, Blue Cheer, even Hendrix are part of their musical lexicon, while Sonic Youth, Dead Meadow, and Comets on Fire hint to their current references.
The band has been playing with artists such as Sleepy Sun, Dead Meadow, Witchcraft, Black Diamond Heavies, Radio Moscow, Jennifer Gentle, The Dodos, La Octracina, Cass McCombs, Cave, Awesome Color, Monotonix, to name just a few. “New Rituals,” Mondo Drag’s debut for Alive, is an album about life, death, love, revenge, and the unknown. Especially the unknown…..~
Mondo Drag came out of nowhere for me, I discovered them because they were recently added to Roadburn and I read a lot of positive things. “New Rituals” has become a favorite from the first listen and probably will be for most fans of psychedelic rock. The album begins with the title track. The intro is really spacey, slowly gaining focus until it explodes into this sun drenched surf rock stomp with awesome keys. The vocals are very smooth but the real focus is on the music. Expect a lot of interstellar jams throughout.
“Fade Out (Into Space)” hits you immediately with a powerful groove and soaring vocals. This is definitely one of the best shorter tracks on the record and has great energy that dissipates in a slow feedback drenched solo. It’s easy to see the band’s influences run deep into the 60’s and 70’s haze of Cream, Pink Floyd, Blue Cheer and Hendrix. Speaking of Floyd, “Serpent Shake” and “Love Me (Like a stranger)” makes use of the organ in all the right ways. You couldn’t really ask for better production, it still feels very 60s/70s but without sacrificing any quality. “Come On Through” has a trippy blues vibe going on, it’s very catchy.
Mondo Drag has a lot in common with some of the new wave of psychedelic bands, both from the stoner rock side and the shoegaze side of it. Bands like Dead Meadow have a lot in common here and I’m sure some of that comes from the two bands touring together. Mondo Drag more of a diverse sound than many of their peers and they really layer the instruments well. While their sound is easily classified under psychedelic rock, there is a larger range of sounds covered here than the average band in this style. The vocals compliment the sound well and never overpower the music. The only downside to some would be the difficulty had making out the words over the fuzz.
“Black River” is a beautiful instrumental, the acoustic guitar, light keys and flute mesh together to create a really beautiful soundscape. Basically, the whole album is pure psychedelic joy and I see this getting heavy rotation as spring comes along. I know it has only begun but far as 2010 is concerned, this is my top album. This album is highly recommended to anybody with a taste for rock music in general…..by Bleekill…sputnik….~
Neo-psychedelic rock band Mondo Drag were formed in Davenport, Iowa, by Johnnie Cluney (drums/vocals), Nolan Girard (rhythm guitar/vocals), John Gomino (keyboards/saxophone), Dennis Hockaday (bass), and Jake Sheley (lead guitar). The group released its debut album, New Rituals, on Alive Naturalsound Records on January 26, 2010. Their equally trippy, seven-track follow-up features Zack Anderson on bass and Cory Berry on drums, both former members of Radio Moscow. A third rhythm section of bassist Andrew O'Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia joined the band after Mondo Drag was recorded and they relocated to Oakland, California. The album was released on Kozmik Artifactz in the spring of 2015. ~ William Ruhlmann & Marcy Donelson…..~
Hailing from the psychedelic hotbed of, uh, Davenport, Iowa, this stomping five-piece recalls the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth… namely the mid-‘70s, when Led Zeppelin crossed bombast, prog, and cherry-picked mythology to conjure up epics like “Achilles’ Last Stand”. So yes, Mondo Drag boldly goes where many others have gone before on the ironically-titled New Rituals, but the band pulls it off with aplomb, as well as with the requisite saxophones and keyboards, from the swaggering, start-stop rhythms of “Light as a Feather” to the jazzy Deep Purplisms of “Fade Out”, the glam boogie of “Serpent Shake” and the pastoral “Black River”. While some songs are little more than excuses to jam for five-plus minutes (viz., “The Apple”), the band – led by lead guitarist Jake Sheley and bassist Dennis Hockaday – can really bring it, and rarely devolve into stoner rock drudgery/wankery. Mondo Drag may be dwelling in the genre ghetto of '70s psych/hard rock revivalism, but damned if they don’t do it well….by…STEPHEN HAAG…pop matters….~
Trip out with Mondo Drag! From deep in the cosmos of Iowa, this psychedelic outfit has created a strange brew of garage, psych, space, sludge and stoner rock. “New Rituals,” their debut for Alive, is an incursion into extended psychedelic blues guitar jams and haunting vocals over heavy, steady bass lines and thumping percussion. Mondo Drag has shared the stage with bands such as Witchcraft, Dead Meadow, Pentagram, and Radio Moscow, to name just a few. “They rock. Most songs clock in at over 6 minutes, yet you don’t notice the time go by because they seem to take that long just to rev up. Each song stretches, cries, screams, and tears itself apart.” - Berkeley Place…..~
Hailing from Iowa, somewhere in the middle of the USA comes Mondo Drag, a psychedelic rock outfit and their freshly released LP, New Rituals.
The album begins with the nine minute long title track ‘New Ritual’, encapsulating all the different appeals this band presents in their music. With moments of choppy punk rock-like vocals, a mix of sharp, distorted and windy psychedelic guitar work and an enthusiastic keyboard melody thrown in for good measure, this opener shows what Mondo Drag are all about. Following is the bass-heavy ‘Fade Out (Into Space)’. Evoking Black Sabbath, it’s a short but catchy tune; a good rock and roll song.
‘True Visions’ slows down the tempo and drawls out from the speakers, vocals echoing out and around the intricate yet fuzzed-out guitar, before flawlessly falling into ‘My, Oh My’. ‘Love Me (Like a Stranger)’ is a lamenting love song with the same mellow feeling as Dead Meadow, but you can feel something crawling underneath it all.
‘Lights as a Feather’ begins with a guitar riff straight out of Mr Hendrix’s own book, as much as it pains me to make such an easy and lazy comparison, though then floats into a trippy keyboard jam of bizarre space-like noises. ‘Black River’, my personal favourite from the album, pulls out the acoustic guitar for some fast-paced flamenco-esque action, before the seven minute long epic ‘Apple’ rounding it all together with a Darker My Love reminiscent rock song laced with a pop sensibility to leave a lasting impression and one last elongated smokey dream-sequence to walk out of.
Mondo Drag’s New Ritual brings together spacious 1970’s jams with a punk rock aggression, giving it a contemporary appeal. The 11 tracks together create a harsh but romantic landscape that I can only imagine would take on even more life when witnessed live….by….Alexandra Duguid…~
I’m sure a lot of folks consider California to be the physical and spiritual home of psychedelic rock, but let’s face it: often the best mind-trippers come from places with no glittering array of city lights, stars (of every type) and constant activity to distract them. Take, for example, MONDO DRAG, an acid-fried quintet that hails from the deepest Midwest – specifically Davenport, Iowa. The band displays the usual plumage on New Rituals – distortion and feedback, hazy melodies, a dreamlike atmosphere, acoustic ephemera. But despite treading well-worn ground, the Draggers make it sound fresh, rather than hackneyed – likely the virtue of having no scene to get lost in. Muscular and melodic, Mondo Drag kicks out the new/old jams….by Michael Toland….~
Bass – Dennis Hockaday
Drums – Johnnie Cluney
Guitar – Jake Sheley
Keyboards, Saxophone – John Gamino
Rhythm Guitar – Nolan Girard
Violin – Skye Merkle-Carrasco
Vocals – Bambi Suits, Johnnie Cluney, Nolan Girard
A1 New Rituals
A2 Light As A Feather
A3 Love Me (Like A Stranger)
A4 Come Through
A5 Fade Out
B1 Serpent Shake
B2 True Visions
B4 Black River