Like a modern-day Hawkwind, Mondo Drag fall from the cosmos with the spaced-out 60′s psychedelia of the title track. It’s the sound of UFO’s visiting an outdoor rock concert with an audience of stoned bikers and damaged post-Pink Floyd space travelers. That is to say, it’s great! Moving on from there, "Love Me (Like A Stranger)" dares to meld Black Sabbath with early Syd-era Floyd, to wondrously lysergic sludge-rock effect. "Come Through" is on a similar flight path as the Brian Jonestown Massacre, with it’s laid-back blissed-out vibe. "Serpent Shake" revs it up with a driving riff mantra. These are the true children of the bong, and "New Rituals" is a powerhouse stoner-rock album that reaches back to the past and brings it back to the future, bleary-eyed and on a whole different kinda trip. – Goatsden
New Rituals blends bluesy sonic landscapes with psychedelic (qc) thunder wizardry. It’s a warm record full of green artistic inspiration from a talented group of friends. – For Young Moderns
Opening Mondo Drag’s new CD, “New Rituals,” is like opening a time capsule from the classic rock vaults of the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the artwork to the music, so psychedelic and grungy is this Davenport band’s garage rock that you can almost smell the pot. Still, no amount of incense could cover up the unabashed stoner rock performed by Johnnie Cluney, Nolan Girard, John Gamino, Dennis Hockaday and Jake Sheley as they lead listeners on a musical journey over the course of 11 original songs that blend psychedelic, progressive, metal and blues-rock to good effect. The list of iconic sounds and performers they conjure up is too long to list, but highlights include the funky “Light As A Feather,” the ballads “Come Through” and “True Visions” and dark rockers “Apple” and “Tallest Tales.” – Michael Swanger / City View
Interview with Mondo Drag on AfroJacks
“Mondo” — falling somewhere in between “gnarly” and “tubular” in the surfer lexicon — is a term used to describe all things big and awesome, not unlike the huge, layered, cosmic psychedelic anthems of Mondo Drag. But while the mondo certainly works for the Davenport, Iowa-based group, the drag is deceiving, because for the five members the last year has been anything but.
The musicians started out 2010 as relative unknowns, but have pushed hard ever since, playing gigs at South by Southwest and Austin Psych Fest, supporting acts like The Black Keys and Andrew W.K., and recording their very own Daytrotter session. –Oklahoma Gazette interview
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. – Stephen Haag /PopMatters
Mondo Drag (consisting of Cluney, vocalist/guitarist Nolan Girard, guitarist Jake Sheley, bassist Dennis Hockaday and keyboardist John Gamino) seems to always have us out in a hot and hungry desert, stripped of our sanity, drained of our better senses and swirling in a purple-y groove, just trying to start seeing straight again. It’s partly a freakout and partly something we ingested or smoked, bringing on the sensations willingly – feeling disjointed and paranoid, spinning in circles. We hear wolves crying, "KILL," in the twilight, off in the distance. We never cease to feel the heat burning through us and we’re starting to think that the cactuses and the abandoned steer skulls resting in the sand are trying to speak to us. These are all hallucinations working on us, spreading over us like streaky moonlight and a bad trip. Actually, it’s more like a good trip because this one won’t leave you sleeping with chickens, chewing your pillows as if they were made of breasts or meatloaf or wearing pantyhose, lipstick and nothing else. It’s a trip that you would like never to end, to just keep roiling and rolling, tumbling – heating up, melting, slowing down, idling and then blasting again on all cylinders. "New Rituals" is an album that will bring you to that place that you’re always hoping to get to on a night when you’re hitting the town, trying to cut loose and pretend as if you’re not just out there trying to make ends meet, but are actually as satisfied and well off as you need to be, simply because you’re feeling like THIS. It’s all tingly and throbbing and LOUD and we’re happy to drown in this syrup. – The Wolves And The Hallucinogens Are Crying Kill / Daytrotter Session
"This sound is massive reverberating vocal sounds crooned over lush hot fire fuzzed trance riffs and hazy atmospheric analog FX-ed space rock ‘n’ roll melted into feedback-drenched electro-oscillating freak-out jams spliced with organ-heavy garage-punk stomp parts, dark and dreamy synth-prog buildups with folky acoustic ragas and filthy blues slides. We try to pay homage to the forefathers but drag it down its own direction, a new cross-bred path untraveled, good jams, basically." – Mondo Drag interview for SXSW 2010 Spinner
Mondo Drag’s 11-track sonic adventure needs multiple listens to take it all in. The band hits you with an approach that lands somewhere between The Doors and Jane’s Addiction – hints of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd in there too – with songs that are more musically-driven than lyrically-dominated. The disc opens up with a 40-second wave of feedback kicking off the nine-minute title track. By the time the drums get rolling, the guitar licks soak in and the keyboards march through in some kind of beach music send-off, the music as a whole has already started to melt your face off. Haunting vocals from drummer/singer Johnnie Cluney and guitarist/singer Nolan Girard carry the listener further as blues guitar jams are unleashed. It’s psychedelic rock with a raw heart that mixes up the genres without the polish or attitude, as if some band from the ’70s woke up in 2010 and decided there really was no reason to grow with the time and just do what they do best. And that’s just the first track! Hints of saxophone are complimentary instead of a distraction on the bluesy, Hendrix-esque "Light As a Feather." "Fade Out" sounds like Perry Farrell singing over a Hendrix-ian groove. "Love Me (Like a Stranger)" adds in a smattering of The Mars Volta. The band gets acoustic on "Come Through" and "Black River." – Jeff Hanhe / Creative Loafing
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. – Michael Toland / Big Takeover
“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. – Sputnik Music
Davenport, Iowa’s Mondo Drag (formerly known as Holy Smokes) are proof that good bands — and records — can germinate in the most oddball of surroundings. In fact, their material seems to suggest that what’s needed to make good music is not a hopping music scene so much as a killer record collection. One might guess that Davenport, then, has a plethora of good thrift stores and yard sales given Mondo Drag’s latest release, New Rituals. Filled with five-minute-plus cuts of pure blues/psych/sludge, New Rituals conjures up a stew of influence: early Pink Floyd, Pentagram and, says the band, any of about 20 forever-thought-lost-to-the-ether records the band collectively happens upon in a given week. For a band whose sound can eerily echo some of the better fuzz blooze of days past, there is a consistent growth and newness to each of their releases. (Pink Floyd grew from record to record too, you’ll remember.) Let’s hope Springwater has had a structural engineer pop by in the last year or two — Mondo err more on the Black Mountain side of psych but don’t forget the Black Sabbath either. – Timothy C Davis / Nashville Scene
Deep from the interstellar space of a Pink Floydesk planet (Davenport, Iowa) a spaceship called MONDO DRAG lands on the earth. The heavy psych rockers celebrate NEW RITUALS with a hulking wall of sound, an arsenal of guitars and a head full of clouds. They are on a journey through time from the future into the past to recruit their followers persuading them with extended psychedelic blues guitar jams and haunting vocals over heavy, steady bass lines and thumping percussion. The blue cheering crowd standing on the black mountain freaks out and dance into a transcendent state of trance listening MONDO DRAG’s intoxicating music. Does time run backwards in other universes? Yes, in the MONDO DRAG universe it does. Our universe may be part of a much larger multiverse, which as a whole is time-symmetric.
Formed by Johnnie Cluney (drums/vocals), Nolan Girard (rhythm guitar/vocals), John Gamino (keyboards/saxophone), Dennis Hockaday (bass), and Jake Sheley (lead guitar) MONDO DRAG has created a strange brew of garage, psych, space, sludge and stoner rock. Mission accomplished! – Captain Beyond
With minds expanded and set to the key of retro, Davenport, Iowa — which for those in the know is called “the San Francisco of Iowa” (that’s not true) — the high toned Mondo Drag emerge bearing psychedelic sweets that seem to melt as soon as they hit your tongue. There are 11 of them, to be exact, and when packaged together and put in the right order, they make up the band’s Alive Records debut, New Rituals. It’s a record about as thick as the band’s collective sonic moustache, and right from the opening nine-minute title track, you know there’s a freakout bound to happen here.
Their heavier moments could be drawing from Graveyard or a less doomed-out Witchcraft, but as change-up tracks like the acoustic-led “Black River” or “Come Through” demonstrate, there’s more to Mondo Drag than mere aping of ‘70s proto metal. “Love Me” is laced with organ-fused heaviness, and “Serpent Shake” takes a later-‘60s acid pop feel, once again making use of the organ, but being more rhythm-driven and upbeat. The changes in attack are subtle, but show themselves more distinctly on repeat listens, and though I don’t know if any of the songs on New Rituals ever prove to be catchy in that “stuck in your head” sense of the word, there is a natural feel throughout the album that sustains the enjoyment level for the duration. – The Obelisk
First things first: If you don’t like Black Mountain, old Black Keys, or Pink Floyd’s bluesier material, you won’t like Mondo Drag. Oh, and if you don’t like those things, you also should get the fuck off my blog. Because they’re awesome.
Second: Mondo Drag’s latest foray into extended psychedelic, wandering jams that go on for days and days is just as good as anything this band has ever done. Is it self-indulgent? A little. But that’s the price of long, fuzzy blues guitar jams over heavy, steady basslines and thumping percussion. There’s a reason this band has been around for years and survived its name change from “Holy Spirit:” 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
Awake! Mondo Drag has pulled a colloquial language out of the cadavers of forgotten lore making it a harmonious love in for all. (Insert hugs and kisses and tepid fondling). Served on a silver platter for all those educated in existentialism, astral projection,tantra sex and an appreciation for hallucinatory, mind altering drone. Who needs LSD when I have Mondo Drag the Kapellmeister of transcendental meditation. – SugarBuzz Magazine
With this new record, Mondo Drag has something very interesting things occuring musically as they combine vintage sounds from several genres and morph them into something that is unique in today’s rock and roll world. – Andrew Bryant / Disc Exchange
Mondo Drag interview with the Quad City Times
VERY good psychadelic garage rock…has a really thick 60′s feel…man It is REAL good. Check this out! – The LP Revival Blog
Mondo Drag band of the week on Microwaved Milk
More Mondo Drag reviews :
Planet Gong (Fr) | M Is Meer (The Netherlands) | Raw Power Magazine (Fr)
Rock Times review (Fr) | Planet Trash (The Netherlands) | SFR Music (Fr) | Jovenes Dioses (Spain) | Foutraque review (Fr)
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. – All Music Guide