Unstoppable force

The sludgy juggernaut of the Melvins
By MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG  |  August 8, 2008

YOUR PROBLEM “I know we’re making quality music, and if people don’t like it, they’re just wrong.”

Strange hairdos aside, you’d be hard-pressed to find a link between Melvins frontman Roger “Buzz” Osborne (a/k/a King Buzzo) and 13th-century theologian St. Thomas Aquinas. But over the phone from a tour stop in central California, the 44-year-old singer/guitarist loosely paraphrases the Dominican friar in summing up his band’s long, bizarre career: “Basically it’s like, if you get what we’re doing, then no explanation is necessary, and if you don’t, then no explanation is possible.”

Can you feel my love, Buzz: A chat with Mackie Osborne. By Michael Alan Goldberg.
That’s true. The more-than-30 full-length albums and EPs the LA-via-Washington band have issued since 1984 defy all attempts to define their style or determine their genre or even say what the bleep is going on. That hasn’t stopped people from trying, however. The Melvins’ sound is most often reduced to either “stoner rock” or a slow, Sabbathy sludge “that begat grunge.” Both of which it has been, at various points, but such descriptions don’t take into account the forays into menacing ambient/industrial creepiness, thrashy noise punk, trippy psych freakouts, and even something approaching pop, however skewed and darkly humored — experiments that can all pop up on the same album. It’s like watching one of David Lynch’s baffling cinematic sequences: you’re better off just enjoying the strange ride than stopping to try to figure it out.

Which brings us to the band’s new Nude with Boots (Ipecac). The one-two opening punch of “The Kicking Machine” (with its Zeppelin-style boogie rock) and “Billy Fish” (built on a guitar riff very like the one in Stone Temple Pilots’ “Plush”) would seem to augur a quasi-conventional outing. But that turns out to be a tease. “Dog Island” writhes in an electronic-dappled tarpit for nearly eight minutes, and the unsettling instrumental “Dies Irae” summons demons quicker than that puzzle box in Hellraiser. The nimble, comparatively speedy “Suicide in Progress” and the title track might be some of the Melvins’ catchier work, but then there’s the soothing “Flush,” which sounds like whales and birds swimming together in ocean depths, and the howling, clattering closer, “It Tastes Better Than the Truth,” which sounds as if it had been recorded during the Spanish Inquisition.

In other words, it’s another killer Melvins album, and another killer Melvins album that’ll probably sell fewer copies in our lifetime than Coldplay move in an hour. “We’ve been far more adventurous than most bands, and paid the price for it as well,” says Buzz. “It’s strange. It’s something that I’m used to, I guess, but you just hafta realize that, you know, I’ve always been right about everything I’ve done in life, and I’m still right. We’ve never been welcomed with open arms, but I don’t care. I know we’re making quality music, and if people don’t like it, they’re just wrong.”

Boots marks the second Melvins disc with the four-man line-up of Osborne, long-time drummer Dale Crover, bassist/vocalist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis. The latter two also form the pummeling LA rock duo Big Business (who join the Melvins at the Paradise this Saturday). “It’s just been better,” says Buzz when asked whether the pair’s presence has re-energized the Melvins as the band career toward their 25th anniversary next year. “It’s not like we were lagging or anything like that before — it’s more a reinvention than anything.”

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