I’ll admit that, before Last Patrol appeared last year, Monolithic Baby! was my last encounter with Wyndorf and co back in 2003. Good album, no question – Slut Machine, On the Verge and Radiation Day are proof enough of MM’s hard-rocking creds and quality – but by riding the Powertrip/God Says No slipstream again, its heavily anthemic bent feels like a further shift away from the psychedelic superhighs of Spine of God, Superjudge, Dopes to Infinity and, of course, the well-strung munt that is Tab 25*.

We’re missing a bit of out-there.

So, we (I) skip a couple of albums. Before you know it, 2013 rolls around with a new album on the Napalm Records label and somehow, the time feels right to revisit Planet Magnet. What’s different?

First, there’s the cover art: the bullgod is BACK.

Not the reductive bullgods of the past few albums but the shapeshifting cosmic fucking overlord bullgod, the big dude tipping an interstellar third-eye nod to those early 90s meisterworks. It’s an artwork, not a logo. Things are looking good.

And when I Live Behind the Clouds – Wyndorfian title or what? – opens the show, they sound even better. Lean and unhurried, it’s devoid of Monolithic’s leather-kecked arena-sized swagger, drawing instead from low-key wells like Zodiac Lung and Nod Scene’s quieter bits. Promising stuff, and track two – the title track – confirms it: we have an official Return to Form. Last Patrol (the track) is space-bound psyche done the Magnet way, its off-planet swirl and astral solos stretching out over 9 minutes of impending meltdown. Classic, vintage – and again, lean. Monolithic’s beefed production has been ditched in favour of those Stooges/Hawkwind roots, shot through with a real late 60s analogue vibe.

Last Patrol strikes me as the sound of a band at one with themselves. Not striving to be anything, not pandering to some caricature of what they should be, they just ARE. And they’re confident with it. Whether that’s down to long-term axe fella Ed Mundell’s exit, or some new level of personal insight opened up by Dave Wyndorf’s Mastermind-era health probs, who knows, but there’s a refinement and a sense of pacing here that makes Last Patrol work as a proper album, a real start-to-finish listening job. Stay Tuned, a sparse electro-acoustic brooder, closes the album like a cinematic fadeout – a space for actors to exit – and Three Kingfishers does cross-cultural fusion as though George Harrison just got back from India for the first time. Guitar-west meets sitar-east, shades of Electric Prunes hymnal psyche circa Mass in F Minor – yep, it’s THAT 60s. Then again, Kingfishers is a Donovan cover so whaddya expect? Either way, it’s Patrol perfect.

And all the while, you’re reminded of just how good a hard rock voice Dave Wyndorf actually has, his biker-outlaw charisma and friendly motherfuckercool lifted with a sky’s eye insight:

Brother, can you help me now

I feel my mind is drifting

Lost between the sacred grains of sand forever shifting’

– Mindless Ones, Last Patrol

Yep, I think we can say that the spirit of Monster Magnet has been revived – and about time. Last Patrol is a class act, so much so that it’s even got me round to plugging those 4-Way Diablo and Mastermind-sized holes in the collection. Welcome back guys, you’ve been missed.

STOP PRESS!!! I’ve just found out that Milking the Stars: a Re-imagining of Last Patrol is coming out in November. Good timing or what?

*a review I posted on Head Heritage a few years back