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Pop Music Review : Blues Meets Alternative Rock in Monsters' Jam at Wiltern

November 12, 1994|DENNIS HUNT

Big Head Todd & the Monsters, the Boulder, Colo.-based threesome that played the Wiltern Theatre on Thursday, has forged a unique sound by squeezing blues through an alternative-rock filter.

The resulting sound is sort of buoyant, wide-open, pop-ish rock, riddled with the ache of the blues. It's those darker tones that give the group's best songs--"Sister Sweetly," "It's Alright" and "Bittersweet"--much of their soulfulness.

The generally excellent show had only an occasional misstep--a song rambling on too long or an excessively loose overall structure in need of tightening. But that's just the kind of minor problems that crop up when jam bands get really cranked up in a go-for-broke mood.

Lead singer guitarist Todd Park Mohr, bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin have somewhat reigned in their old jam mentality. They started out as a blues-cover band in Colorado back in the mid-'80s and, by playing three-hour shows, built a reputation as a junior-league Grateful Dead. Most of the time when they cut loose on a jam Thursday, it was coherent and resonating with sparkling musical ideas.

Mohr is the group's real spark plug. His guitar solos ranged far and wide, invading Mark Knopfler territory here, Albert Collins turf there--and even swooping into Hendrix country. His vibrant playing, coupled with his mournful, dipped-in-blues drone of a voice, was a terrific one-two punch.

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