When a band is more than just about really great music; when it's a source of inspiration and comfort and a reason to go on, and when this band is celebrating its 25th anniversary, it's reason for me to celebrate too.
For starters I offer two different Melvins: the first, concentrates on the essence of their music, turning final products into raw material for others to reproduce. The second focuses on the extra touch their music has when played live. Pick your battles.
Chicken Switch (Ipecac)
It takes a lot of courage to lend your music to others' free manipulation. That was not the first thought that crossed my mind while anticipating Chicken Switch; rather, my wild associative mind floated to Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 18, wherein subject so smoothly switches to object, all the same active and powerful.
Fifteen musicians paid homage to (the) Melvins, clearly putting a lot of thought and effort into generating new phrases from previously well constructed pieces. The result could not have been anything but intensely enlightening and delightful.
Fifteen tracks: most of which present total abstraction. I love it. Getting the gist of the Melvins' work as someone else experiences fascinates me. Heavy, mysterious, threatening, experimental, playful, piercing, could only illustrate some of the attributes emerging while listening to Chicken Switch. Its peak reveals itself in the last five tracks. "Overgoat" is the epitome of style, embedding all of the above qualities and containing the perfect dosage of authentic substance. However, the one I love best is the following track: "Over from Under the…
Dog, Girl & Boy Treatment." Despite the implications of its title (which I had overlooked at first) I couldn't find any trace of Gluey Porch Treatments except in the final seconds. Yes, I admit to have fallen into that derisive trap of trying to recognize the original album(s) behind each track only to achieve poor results. Apart from the obvious, meaning Lee Ronaldo working on Eggnog and Panacea getting Stoner Witch, nothing was too obvious. I thought Christoph Heemann went for Honky. I believed I heard both Lysol and The Bootlicker in John Duncan's "AAHHH…" I could recognize the "Grinding Process" riff in "She Choked..", which means V/VM picked 26 Songs (or 10 or 8). But, has Eye Yamatsuka's "Sk8tronics" really grabbed Pigs of the Roman Empire? Did Void Manes Electroretarded Houdini (?live)? And, what exactly was Ozmatized by $peedranch?
Which album would I choose if were given the chance (and some talent)? Honky! I would absolutely choose Honky. I would chase all its varied hues and colors into wide blinding desert white, placing this huge sign at the horizon: "the people here in the radio just don't like your band."
[Until two year ago no one could make me open any kind of comic. Back then, comics were boyzstuff; comics were for those who couldn't read a decent novel, or for smartasses like Dave and Tom from Zombie Clergy. Later, my son got me hooked on a specific genre of Japanese animation, which paved my way to throw a glance or two at other animation and even better, not to wrinkle my nose when coming across a comic book. MANCHILD4 by Brian Walsby– although I haven't read cover to cover, I happen to leaf through it once in a while and stop to read some. From those that I did read, I enjoyed the account of the 2008 tour (but that doesn't count, does it? That's straight); I also liked "Snake Nation," I thought "Angry John" was pretty cool, "Jimi Hendrix and God…" was okay and "My First Orgasm" was awesome. But, my favorite, the one I believe justifies my late entrance to the comics ball is "A 'Coming of Age Growing Up in the Punk Scene and Being Betrayed' Story." Touché!! ]
Pick Your Battles (Bifocal Media)
Pick Your Battles juxtaposes two of the Melvins' shows. The first took place in 1989 (Berkeley, CA) and the second in 2008 (Boston, MA). Twenty years. Melvins live – past and present.
The Berkeley show opens with "Koolegged" like I hadn't heard before – suddenly everything's much clearer – it tears harder and does not leave until the last sound of the last song, "Your Blessened." Melvins live makes you want to abandon anything you've known about listening. It makes you want to touch the voice, touch the strings, touch the vibrations, touch the beat, touch the source of meaning.
Boston, Wow! What a party! Everybody's well dressed. Everyone looks so smart. Great speeches. Wonderful ambience. The right lighting and the right sound. I feel so comfortable. But HEY! Who are those wild freaks? Who are those two animals doing whatever they want whenever they want to? Roaring their hunger. Squeezing their thirst. Smashing the (h)edges of time & place? Oh, these are "Eye Flys" and "Boris". They can always walk naked.
At the Paradise Club in Boston, May 16, 2009. How I wish I were there… (and what a cover!)
Hope (the) Melvins' silver anniversary has whet your appetite, stay for the main course…
Originally published in February 2010 and included a slideshow which I abandoned for the sake of simplicity; otherwise, I didn't touch a thing. When you have done with your dinner, you'll be served a special audio-visual digestif