It takes a certain amount of preconditioning when it comes to understanding The Melvins, if not enjoying them. With a strange and malleable sound comes a strange history, and The Melvins have 25 years of both. With the distinctive obese goblin pipes of Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne acting as a familiarized center of their sound, The Melvins have given themselves, seemingly from day one, carte blanche to do essentially whatever they please regardless of what others think, especially record labels. Of course their trademark will always be their epic sloth, which has made them the most stoner rock of punk bands one can conceive within reason. These days they’ve largely abandoned the sludge and have actually turned the rock up considerably. Enabling this dirty turn of events are their two new friends, Jared and Coady from Big Business.
This collaboration started with live appearances and continued on with Senile Animal. I didn’t really get around to hearing this record, but hearing the follow-up confirms what I had originally assumed. The Melvins, for the first time ever, sound polished, they have sheen and clarity, sort of. Granted they still have the trademark weirdness, the bellowing vocals, the utterly nonsensical lyrics and the oddball, animal-referencing titles. What Big Business brought to The Melvins – aside from 50 percent more drumming – was not just additional layers of heaviness, but also a no-nonsense artistic approach. At the time, Big Business was a bass and drums two-piece in which no large amount of frills was all that possible. Being a part of this band, however, surely gives them the opportunity to loosen up a bit. Indeed, that’s what happens on both ends. Nude with Boots lacks the thickness, but is replaces with, of all things, grooves and sweet riffs as opposed to nuclear riffs. The title track has a decidedly classic rock simplicity, Jared Warren’s bass hums, rattles and thumps throughout, complimented by Coady Willis’ drumming, which is more hammer-like than the hardcore stomp and plod of Dale Crover.
It’s hard to say who is truly guiding who in this disc. But it’s significant to note that this is about as stripped-down as The Melvins will ever get. Buzzo’s guitar work is as polished as ever—it’s crisp, focused and not really that content on vibrating the walls or ravaging eardrums. In a sense, they’ve done so much to manipulate their sound; all that’s left is to go where their former colleagues Soundgarden and Green River treaded with more cringe-inducing sincerity. They save their more tried and true business with “The Savage Hippy” and “It Tastes Better than the Truth,” the last two tracks. They’re anthemic to the band’s subversion against more tedious subversion. Everything slows down, Buzzo’s vocals howl and growl like he always has, the riffs are tar-heavy with less focus on string acrobatics, unless it involves screaming feedback. There’s not much that can be said about The Melvins except that they continue to do whatever they do, which in this case is doing whatever it is they don’t normally do.
Big Business – Here Come the Waterworks
Mudhoney – The Lucky Ones
Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf