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Butlins Heavy, Pt. II

14 Dec

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Continuing on from my last post, I’m back to let you know who I thank and/or curse for ruining a little bit more of my precious hearing this past weekend at ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas 2008. Off we go:

1) THE MELVINS 2008 – Just the best established heavy band on the planet today, period. And I got to see em play twice. While they may not have been the first punkers to get heavy, their endless explorations and permutations of the concept over the past 2+ decades continually blow minds wherever they are heard. Who else would be confident enough to adopt a new rhythm section – the BIG BUSINESS guys – who, on a good night, are capable of upstaging the original members 6 ways to Sunday? Only crazy Buzzo and Dale.

Live, THE MELVINS played most of their amazing new Nude With Boots CD, surely in my top 10 for this year and the best reimagination of LED ZEPPELIN I’ve heard in a decade. Buzzo’s always a commanding presence whether playing rhythm gtr, pealing vicious leads, or growling cryptic lyrics; Jared looked and played bass like Davey Crocket might’ve skinning a coon; and the masterfully tandem drumming of Coady and Dale linked songs into seamless chains and/or destroyed entire sections of the audience on a whim. It was glorious.

They ended the first set with a defiantly in-your-face a cappella(!) version of “The Star Spangled Banner” which, after the election and this kinda gig, gave us American ex-pats permission to again stand proud. On the second night they played completely insane versions of “My Generation” and “Boris the Spider” with Jared mumbling and crawling arachnid-like through the audience. Nuts! All this was capped off by Jared & Buzzo singing Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee,” which got me pondering just what other kinda ugly ornery beauty has helped shape the contorted wonder that is THE MELVINS.

2) ISIS – The RADIOHEAD of black metal, ISIS is a big deal these days and for no apparent reason. Fans talk of “climatic, shifting dynamics” and “cinematic tension and release” but all I hear is a bunch of control freaks trying desperately to flatten everything out into one smooth, highly-polished aural pancake. It was not only boring but maddening trying to figure out what the damn appeal is. They can’t write songs (any more than 1 or 2 chords would ruin the gloss), there are no distinctive players or voices (although one of em did chime like U2’s The Edge), and the deadly seriousness with which they approach the whole thing gets me thinking these dweebs need to away from their Playstations a bit more frequently. Hopefully ISIS stuck around to get schooled by the some of older acts over the weekend.

3) MASTODON – Wunderkinder in the latest phase of heavy, MASTODON hit incredibly hard and physically powerfully like HIGH ON FIRE accompanying NEUROSIS on a flaming chariot into cosmic battle. Unlike ISIS, these southern boys took some real chances: gtrist Bill Kelliher was sidelined by illness and so they went ahead and played as a 3-piece. Without the dual gtr harmonies, the THIN LIZZY influences exhibited on their records were largely absent, and the sound was left wide open to shed light on individual playing.

Singer/gtrist Brent Hinds played relentless, ever shifting circles of notes that worshipped at the feet of John McLaughlin, drummer Brann Dailor used distinctly jazzy flourishes to color what otherwise might’ve been straight thrash playing, and Troy Sanders filled the substantial space between with monolithic bass chords and his wispy beard. While their sound may have been forged by gods, it was hammered by fellas who obviously engaged life in human terms. We were impressed, lemme tell ya – and their cover of THE MELVINS “The Bit” (with ample help from Buzzo, Dale, and Coady) reminded everyone just who carried that hammer to Earth first.

4) THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS – Only caught about half their set, but I’ll make a stab anyway: Gibby was as misanthropic, self-obsessed, and offputting as I remember him from the Locus Abortion Technician tour in ’87. I don’t care what Johnny Depp says, he’s a liability to the human race. But that don’t mean his band (esp. pinhead Paul Leary) aren’t still totally hot – they are, and have a uniquely skewed pop sensibility that spits out great songs as often as Gibby hollars abuse at the audience. Not sure what their confrontative abjection of yore is suppose to mean in 2008, but hopefully they’ll train their freak on new and wondrous musical activities in the near future.

5) THE LOCUST – Again only caught some of these guys, but they buzzed and freaked hella loudly around the periphery of my vision and hearing long after they’d left the stage. How does one describe the extremities trod here . . . Unitarded grindcore? Pigfuck electro-thrash? Powerviolent nerdprog? Mike Patton most definitely invited these guys, and for once I’m glad he did – so long as somebody made sure they reboarded their spaceship promptly afterward.

6) THE DAMNED – They started with alotta strikes against them: the sonics and lighting were very awkward, the keyboardist wasn’t plugged in for the first few songs, and the audience already pretty beat from the day’s hard rocking. Their challenge: how to follow a brain-crushing MELVINS set and win over a crowd of tired, heavy-loving longhairs with a sound that’s basically revved up, 60’s inspired party pop-rock. It wasn’t a match made in heaven, and alot of people didn’t understand what all the hubbub was about. But me, I watched keenly, moved in closer, smiled widely, and bounced evermore frantically through a rip-roaring set that included among others “Fan Club”, “Love Song”, “Dozien Girls”, “Under the Floor Again”, “Alone Again Or” and a gnarly take on “Smash It Up”.

Dave Vanian – once again sporting ghoul makeup – sang with a voice that gets stronger with every year you haven’t bothered listening. He’s now as clear and confident as a late 60’s Scott Walker, only he doesn’t forget how to laugh when he gets intense. Captain Sensible can’t move his neck too much these days but his licks were as wild, raw, and exciting as contenders half his age – his underappreciated talents still have the power to make the night skies burn with mystery and joy. Septuagenarian keyboardist Monty Oxy Moron both grounded and colored the songs when he wasn’t showing us how he pogoed back in ’76. The rhythm section was less distinctive (Rat Scabies left some big shoes to fill) but still solid and able. Best of all the great new material – harkening back to Strawberries-era glories – had me searching vainly through the merch area for their just-released, killer So, Who’s Paranoid? CD.

Yep silly ol’ Captain got naked and mooned the audience at the end (go YouTube it), but that doesn’t change anything. THE DAMNED remain a totally vital rock n roll act into their 4th decade. Plus: they were the only band I heard who actually thanked THE MELVINS for the invite to play! We at PS Recon thank em too.

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Thanks to Nathan Wind as Cochise for the awesome photo of Buzzo

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Butlins Heavy, Pt. I

12 Dec

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ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas 2008 at Butlins in Minehead: leave it to Mike Patton & THE MELVINS to curate what had to be the most unorthodox ATP festival the UK has yet witnessed.

For once, heavy was well represented – not by mainline metallers, but rather by that odd/difficult end of beard-swinging hessians who visibly irked the SLAYER fans I had the pleasure of standing next to one evening. Also, there was a dearth of trad indie acts on parade, and the indie-aligned who did show up – THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION, SQUAREPUSHER, maybe BOSS HOG – were relegated to afterhours/second stage action. This must’ve bummed the skinny sweater contingent something fierce. And then: there were all manner of wha-the-fuh picks in the mix (JUNIOR BROWN, VOCAL SAMPLING, THE LABEQUE SISTERS . . .) getting everyone to scratch their heads at least a couple times over the weekend. Clearly, contrary is a musical esthetic that Mike and Buzzo both wallow in. And wallow we did.

But it was a fucking great weekend all the same. As I saw so many good bands, this post’ll haveta continue into another post next week. But let’s get started with a rundown of some of the hallowed ones who really sought fit to screw a nut straight into my headstock:

1) THE MELVINS 1983 – I just fucking love that these pillars of Modern Stoner/Sludge still stand proudly by their punker roots. This reconfigured lineup sought to recreate the very earliest MELVINS stirrings, and though they couldn’t lure Matt Lukin outta bass retirement, that didn’t bum their death trip one iota. Their songs at this point had a rapid, multichord gunfire attack I most associate with the GERMS (GI) rec, and at least one set of lyrics was about yr welfare running out – which really dated things. I mean c’mon: is welfare even part of the English language in Bush Jr. Amerikkka? Even when they slowed the beat down, it was in a gnarly slowcore vein that got me thinking D.I. doing “Richard Hung Himself” rather than anything SABBATHoid. A great little history lesson into the house that Buzzo built, and I bet it spun heads other than mine too.

2) TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS – Odd tableau vivant of long gone, late 70’s Lower East Side anticulture. James Sclavunos reinacted Bradley Field’s monomaniacal stare & snare, Lydia the 40-something Polish matron reinacted Lydia the mad teen runaway, and Thurston Moore made sure the bass sounded exactly like what he loves about their original 45s. They did every song they knew, and one twice (“when you’re this ugly you better be perfect”) and the set lasted 20 minutes. I dug every moment of it, but that’s what I say every time I come in contact with Lydia in a live setting. Hey: when’s she gonna corral THE WEIRDOS into revisiting that bitchen 13.13 LP with her?

3) THE MEAT PUPPETS – Had that couldn’t-give-a-fuck confidence that comes with knowing you’ve honed your thing to a sharp knife edge, these guys were a breath of fresh air at the end of long day of relentless rockin’. Oh man does Cris Kirkwood look to’ up and it’s no secret he ain’t much in the way of a bass player no more. But he was there at the beginning, his voice still sounds sweet, and it’s a brother thing I suppose. Anyway Curt is so fucking good at flatpickin’ they all can just ride on his coattails. I don’t actually own too many Pups recs, but I recognized most of the tunes: “Touchdown King”, “Plateau”, “Up On the Sun”, and a great and soaring rendition of “Look at the Rain” that had me grinning ear to ear. As I was really burnt by this point and some fool kept spilling his beer on me, I skipped out before the end. But what I witnessed was powerful enough to get me planning to explore all those Cobain-era records I’ve never bothered with.

4) JAMES BLOOD ULMER – Just James, sitting front and center in a suit, ringing out all alone with his voice and gtr. He strummed open tuned blues while simultaneously hammering-on lead jazzy lines/notes in true harmolodic fashion. The stuff from his recent Bad Blood In the City CD sounded especially powerful, separated entirely as it was from the annoying pro/tech impulses of producer Vernon LIVING COLOUR Reid. James is as deeply rooted as John Lee Hooker but somehow sounds futureforward and freewheeling all the same. Check out his great solo Birthright CD from 2005 for a taste of similar magic; by all means see him shred live while he still walks the earth.

5) FANTOMAS – I watched this performance with a bunch of very sweet but oh-so clueless Mike P. fans (“he’s so cute”). And like FAITH NO MORE and MR. BUNGLE before them, FANTOMAS was nuthin by a monumentally loud, complicated waste of my time. Yes they can stop on a dime, but so can MY SHITS, and that’s not a pleasurable sensation no how. Eggheads may love the near superhuman athletic ability it takes to perform such music, but I can’t ignore the ever-annoying presence of Patton’s pipes and ego. Anybody got any ideas how we can keep him away from the mic for good?

6) BIG BUSINESS – Bassist Jared Warren performed with an unassuming earthiness that reminded me of Mike Watt, and in tandem with drummer Coady Willis’ whirlwind Neil Peartisms I almost believed I was watching GONE tear it up after Ginn had stepped out back to smoke a fatty. Some guy named Dale Crover eventually stepped up to sling gtr over the top of their din, but honestly: this rhythm section woulda made anyone sound angelic. Somewhat expectedly, straighter-laced heads in the audience couldn’t seem to comprehend the depth of beauty unfolding right in front of them, but the seeds were planted. Fruit will follow, you’ll see.

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Shit I didn’t even get around to ranting about ISIS, MASTODON, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, THE DAMNED, or THE MELVINS 2008. Check back in a couple/3/4 days or so for Pt. II . . .

Thanks to curiouslypersistent for the nicely blurry ATP photo

Hate is the Message

26 Apr

Hate Rock

Yeah I’ve struggled through days of pain, and shared in days of sorrow. I’ve worked through days of tense confusion, and weathered days of heavy thunder. But the sweetest, the longest lasting, the most un-for-fucking-get-able of days have been my days of white hot, burning HATE. Come on now, spell it with me: H-A-T-E. Hating me, hating you, hating us, hating them. Hating it fucking all. And while I’m betting you, too, have your very own personal ritual . . . for me, when I’m really feeling the hate, so to speak – well, I open an armfull of chilled Foster’s in tall cans, shut the curtains tight, turn down the lights, roll my eyes waaaay back and slowly take in the following tunes:

BOYD RICE w/ JOEL HAERTLING“Hatesville” (from The Way I Feel, Caciocavallo, 2000) – Boyd’s no ho-dad when it comes to hate – he’s a charter member of Hatred Anonymous. And I do not care if this man is a saint or sinner, Nazi or Nationalist. What I do care about is that he’s frequently and inexplicably great at pulling together sonic material + words that reverberate with my darker thoughts, feelings, & unconscious wishes. Here though, he’s spelling it out in a way we can all understand.

FOETUS/THE MELVINS“Mine is No Disgrace” (from The Crybaby, Ipecac Recordings, 1999) – Don’t even try and convince me Jim Thirwell is a waste of time. Sure he likes to over-arrange his stuff, and I do understand his copious use of BOMBAST is not everyone’s cup o’ tea . . . but pushing buttons is his modus operandi. And by accepting that, you’re half-way into a Foetal position, so to speak. I love the refrain included herein (“I feel like I could rape a nun, and it’s always the first kiss that gets you drunk/ so I keep a habit on her face, while I listen to that YES song, ‘Yours is No Disgrace’ . . .”), and love more that Buzzo & co. are backing him here with real live heavyasswoopin rocknrolla . . .

ADAM PARFREY“Kill Your Sons” (from A Sordid Evening of Sonic Sorrows, Man’s Ruin Records, 1997) – I realize you’re now wondering: does this Mrowster guy sit around pumping his fist to those later 80’s SKREWDRIVER records? And I gotta say no, no, and more no – that Ian Stuart guy was too predictably boring/shmaltzy with all his Blood & Honour crap for a perverse, self-deprecating mofo like myself to take seriously. Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed sharing a pint with the man if only to lob backhanded insults at him . . . anyway Adam P., the distasteful cad behind Feral House Press, once sculpted a couple of irresponsible CDs with the POISON IDEA boyz that, when taken together, act as a sort of hate rock concept suite. This Lou Reed cover is my pick of their foul spawn, but I coulda lots of picked others . . .

GLYN STYLER/LYDIA LUNCH“Casket Built For Two” (from The Desperate Ones EP, Truckstop Records, 1998) – That point where obsessive love finally empties out into a tranquil lagoon of eternal murderous suffocation. Either one of these characters (Glyn or Lydia) harbors enough hatred to fuel a mid-size midwestern town, but together? Brother, the party is ON! I will stand by Lydia’s first dozen or so releases til I die, and once pontificated long and strong about Glyn on a now-defunct website of mine. But really, the whole world oughta be swooning to this beautifully over-wrought epitaph on a nightly basis. God, how much better I’m feeling already!

BLACK FLAG“Scream” (My War, SST Records, 1984) Just the ultimate in primeval scream therapy. Overdubbing multiple Rollinses was one of more effective studio tricks Ginn ever came up with. As a shitty no-talent 16 yr old bassist/keyboardist, I once convinced the ZEPP-loving buddies in my high school band (we called ourselves HAMMER, THUMP & WEDGE) that I’d written this. I didn’t let on and we jammed for weeks around this riff, while I imagined elaborate revenge scenarios and gruesome fantasies of self-serving mayhem aimed at all those who wronged me in my life. “Yeah I blow my cool, I blow my cool all over the place . . .”