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Music Reviews

Two albums from the Melvins in the same year. What have we done to deserve this blessing? Or is it?

by Bob Nickas
01 October 2009, 12:00am

Amphetamine Reptile

Two albums from the Melvins in the same year. What have we done to deserve this blessing? Or is it? Prick, released on AmRep this summer, is an experimental prick-tease. The opening track, “How About,” is based on a sample of some dude extolling all the greatness of Jesus, addressing “everyone whose sins have been washed away by His blood.” At one point you hear someone ask, “What do you think of Elvis Presley?” There is absolutely no music on this track, none. “Rickets” follows, with whispered vocals from Buzz, all one minute and 20 seconds of it. “Pick It n’ Flick It” is arena rock without the arena and without the rock. What’s going on here? The band’s name is on the cover as SNIVLEM. MELVINS backward. Next track. “Montreal.” You can hear a crowd, the whistling, and the anticipation of what’s to come, so this is live, but all you get is a show as so much ambient noise. How is it that Canadians can be ecstatically happy without any clear reason? Damn them. “Chief Ten Beers” is six-plus minutes of mantra noodle-roni. Halfway through you begin to realize that the Melvins have made as clean a break with grudge rock as possible, recording an experimental album that major label Atlantic would never in a million years release. This album smells like spleen spirit—a whim, a caprice, though not a joke, definitely not a joke. Melvins fans are bound to hate this record, but one day, and it may take years, it will come to represent the perverse, anarchic spirit of a band that will live on much longer than those they supposedly inspired. Guilt by association reaches ever new heights, even in the record charts. Track 9 is introduced by a hoary old English geezer as “Pure Digital Silence.” And it is. Totally silent. John Cage silent. And then “Larry” kicks in. A real rock song! Sludgy, magnificent Melvins riffage. Suddenly the world makes sense again. Or does it? “Roll Another One” manages, in its cinematic 14 minutes, to try the patience of even the most diehard Melvins fan, and in doing so redefines the fan. The Melvins ask: Can you go with us wherever we take you? Can you imagine what else a song can be? How much can we fuck with you and still keep you on board? These aren’t questions that any other band today even begins to entertain. Hail Melvins in all their perversity and pestilence: an evil influence on an ever horribly bland world.

MELVINS / Stoner Witch

Two months after Prick fell like the Hindenburg on a ground that needed to be set aflame, the Melvins released Stoner Witch, surely one of the most massive records they have ever conceived. On “Queen,” Buzz sings, “I’ve got time to wish away.” The record rocks off the hook and lives up to its name, a relentless headbanger with a heady dose of malevolence. There’s even a song called “Shevil.” “Goose Freight Train” is languorous and dark. “Roadbull” is anthemic and insistent with the propulsive drums of Dale Crover yielding to a soft, military march and a whistling coda. “At the Stake” takes no prisoners. The Melvins are consummate masters of mood, in particular melancholy, and never more so than here. There’s such majestic authority and undertow to the music, and on this track they are no less than Vikings. The Melvins totally push the bounds of what you’ll accept as a normal rock song—whatever that might be—or willfully ruin a song. “Magic Pig Detective” could easily be a track from Prick, atmospheric metal machine music that leads into a conventional tune. Of course, the instrumental intro is much longer than the actual “song,” where Buzz insists: “I say know your mind.” You can’t help but wonder whether the Melvins compose the way that Dr. Frankenstein put a body together. Listen to these records back-to-back and see just how reciprocal they are—performed, experienced, and felt on both sides. Stoner Witch Prick.

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