Sludge, Jury And Executioner

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  • MELVINS: Sludge, Jury And Executioner
  • By Christopher R. Weingarten

The Melvins are rock’s fuzziest, scuzziest, buzziest footnote. Sabbath-hailing magma-punk weirdos from rural Washington who, coincidentally, energized a local boy who became the most important songwriter on the planet. Frizzy-haired anomalies that brought sludgy, time-sig-vivisecting hubbub to the underground, the overground, Atlantic Records, Lollapalooza and the Kiss Army. Even a question on Celebrity Jeopardy!

Last year, the sap-metal demigods celebrated 20 impossibly prolific years with two records, a bulky book and a stomach-rattling tour. The Melvins are squealing into their third decade with the long-awaited release of their 1983 demos, a split EP with Isis and a thorough pig-roasting as tribute album subjects (Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah pay respect). To cap off 20 years of exploding bass players and brain-melting sludge, five-string sultan of sluggishness Buzz Osborne, speedo-clad drum bulldozer Dale Crover and bassist/ex-Cow Kevin Rutmanis rate the Melvins’ extensive back catalog.

10 Songs (C/Z, 1986; Ipecac, 2003) *** Kevin: Am I on it? Buzz: No, you’re not. Kevin: It sucks. Dale: We recorded all these songs in one day. Then they wanted us to re-record the whole thing because our bass player changed one string on his bass. One bright string and the rest of the strings were dull. Buzz: Let me put it this way. He’s not even in Mudhoney anymore.

Gluey Porch Treatments (Boner, 1987; Ipecac, 2000) *** Buzz: We had some trouble recording [“Eye Flys”] with our bass player, who couldn’t play anything in time whatsoever. He threw a big fit when we were gonna record it because he couldn’t play it—threw his bass across the garage where we practiced. Kevin: Remember when I had to learn it from the CD and asked, “Do you guys want me to start it on the wrong note?”

Ozma (Boner, 1989) *** 1/2 Dale: Most people think this is their favorite record, but they’re wrong. Buzz: We heard the engineer was so embarrassed by this record that he wouldn’t tell anyone he worked on it until years later.

Bullhead (Boner, 1991) *** Buzz: That was the beginning of people bitching and complaining about the fact that it was a “sell-out.” I ended up borrowing a guitar from [the guy who recorded the album] and never giving it back. He then accused me of stealing the guitar… which is true. But you know what? I don’t care. Fuck that guy. He was a total fucking monster.

Eggnog [EP] (Boner, 1991) ***** Dale: This was the answer to the “sell-out.” OK, we’re gonna do the most brutal EP possible. Buzz: We recorded it for nothing. Envision, execute. Realize you wanna do a record and do it. I would do EPs all the time, but they just don’t sell.

King Buzzo [EP] (Boner, 1992) *** Dale Crover [EP] (Boner, 1992) *** Joe Preston [EP] (Boner, 1992) [no stars] Buzz: The whole idea [to do Kiss-esque solo albums] was a joke that went out of control. Mine was recorded with Dave Grohl,who I haven’t talked to in years. I have no idea what he’s doing. Joe did his as a homework assignment. He wasn’t into it at all. We couldn’t believe that he wasn’t interested in this. That was the beginning of the end for him. It’s terrible. His heart wasn’t in it and he was a dumbass for doing that. He did it in about an afternoon.

Lysol (Boner, 1992) **** 1/2 Dale: I always had a problem getting my snare drum to sound good. I used this huge marching drum and just sounded like I was hitting a bucket. I asked if we had a copy of Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin. We figured out how to sample and trigger it. So basically my drum sound is John Bonham’s from “D’yer Mak’er.”

Houdini (Atlantic, 1993) *** Buzz: I think it’s a really good record to do as a major-label debut. We didn’t bring in fucking Bob Rock to do it—spend a bunch of clams for some dumbass to tune our drums for us.

Prick (Amphetamine Reptile, 1994) ***** Buzz: At the end of our European tour, we went to a studio in England to work on songs and do a lot of screwing around, making weird soundscapes. I never understood why people would have a problem with this record. What sorts of things are going on in their lives that they can’t let their guard down? Atlantic bitched and complained until they heard it. Then they said, “Go ahead and do what you want.”

Stoner Witch (Atlantic, 1994) **** Dale: We got to go to a really nice recording studio. I had three drum sets in the studio. Buzz: Twenty days. The longest we ever spent on a record. We really utilized what you can do in a studio. A listening party every night.

Stag (Atlantic, 1996) ***** Kevin: I thought [“Bar-X-The Rocking M”] was a Cows rip-off. I thought you guys were doing it as a joke to us. Buzz: I knew after this record we were finished with Atlantic. That’s when they told us we need to party more with people from radio sales. If I’m gonna do blow with the guy from Sugar Ray, I better be able to fist him up the ass too.

Honky (Amphetamine Reptile, 1997) ***** Buzz: Atlantic hadn’t dropped us. But I knew it was gonna happen. I knew it. Dale: We thought, if for some reason they don’t, we’ll give them this record. Buzz: We said when we walk out of the studio in six days, we’re gonna have a record and put it out no matter what it was. If they picked up our option, we would have turned this in and collected a huge advance.

Singles 1-12 (Amphetamine Reptile, 1997) ***** Buzz: There was a single a month for a whole year. The reason this came out on CD is because some fucker bootlegged them all. Dale: When we were doing Stoner Witch, our A&R guy came to visit. Our engineer and our producer had a joke: “Let’s make him a special mix!” So everyone grabbed a fader and started fucking around with it [resulting in the version of “Queen”]. Flanger going through the whole mix. “Check it out! What do you think?!” He’s just going, “Um.” It kind of backfired. Then we played him something else and he said, “Oh, you guys are fucking with me!” “No. This is the real mix.”

The Maggot (Ipecac, 1999) ***** The Bootlicker (Ipecac, 1999) ***** The Crybaby (Ipecac, 2000) **** Buzz: We got the idea to do three albums. It’s the first one where we [printed the cover art on the back] and we’ll never change that. I don’t understand why bands don’t do it. It’s the biggest place for a piece of art on a CD and they fuck it up with legal type. Dale: I had just gotten a new cat and I found out I was allergic to cats. My lungs were fucked up. If you listen really close between songs, you can hear me going [hacking cough].

Alive At The Fucker Club (Amphetamine Reptile, 2001) ** Buzz: Live record. Two-track recordings in Australia. I wish we had spelled “Australia” wrong on the cover. Spelling it right was a mistake.

Electroretard (Man’s Ruin, 2001) ***** Buzz: It was fun to re-do songs in a completely fucked-up fashion. Once again we had people bitch and complain. Dale: If it were Radiohead, we would have been “geniuses.” Buzz: If we were a chick band people would think we’re the Beatles.

The Colossus Of Destiny (Ipecac, 2001) ***** Dale: It’s a whole hour of us making hideous racket. Buzz: There was a definite meter and a flow to it; it’s not just unbridled noise. This is what people need to hear. Dale: When we recorded it, people were tortured.

Fantômas And Melvins Big Band: Millennium Monsterwork (Ipecac, 2002) **** Kevin: Except for all the overdubs and editing, it’s totally live!

Hostile Ambient Takeover (Ipecac, 2002) ***** Buzz: I love everything about it. My favorite thing about the front cover is that it’s three jackasses. Just like us.

Melvins/Lustmord: Pigs Of The Roman Empire (Ipecac, 2004) ***** Buzz: The idea of doing a collaboration with Lustmord crossed my mind years and years ago. It’s weird that it eventually did happen. A phenomenal record. One of our best.

Jello Biafra And The Melvins: Never Breathe What You Can’t See (Alternative Tentacles, 2004) [unrated] Kevin: He keeps odd hours. He doesn’t really wake up early so we’d be at the studio at noon. So we did other stuff during the day. Buzz: A fun thing to do. There’ll probably be another one soon.

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