Wardens of the sludge
If you ever need a soundtrack to utterly melt your brains or perfectly describe your worst and best acid trips, Melvins have got you covered.
Since 1983, the Washington trio has been perfecting its sludgy sound and pushing experimental boundaries with every new record. Melvins 25th album, A Walk With Love & Death is no exception.
Death, the first half of the double LP album, is riddled with vocalist and guitarist Buzz Osborne’s (a.k.a. “King Buzzo”) classic black tar molasses, lead-footed guitar riffs in songs like “Black Health,” “Euthanasia,” and “Christ Hammer.” Melvins fans may revel in those sounds for the umpteenth time, but the intriguing quality to the new release is the second half, Love.
“We made Love with the idea that it would be a soundtrack to a film that we would like,” Osborne says over a scratchy phone in Los Angeles. “We basically envisioned a film that would work, but the film didn’t exist yet.”
Love, with its sporadic guitar spasms, theremin outbursts, convoluted spoken verses, and noise collages kind of feels like you’re listening to a recorded experimental exorcism on a busy metropolis street.
The soundscape of Love will accompany an upcoming short avant-garde film by Jesse Nieminen. With only a bizarre minute-long trailer released so far, the film promises to be an enjoyably odd experience. The one entity that stands out in the trailer is the flesh-coloured stomach monster that occasionally blinks at you.
Melvins are constantly reinventing themselves. While they craft songs that are more dense than a black hole, under Osborne’s lead, the band manages never to sound conventional. If Melvins were an art movement, they would be Dadaist.
“We try to keep it interesting,” Osborne says. “Lots of bands just kind of rehash the same thing over and over again. I operate in a band as a fan and make music that I would want to hear. I would say 70 percent of my waking hours have something to do with music in one form or another.”
Melvins are cited as being one of the groundbreakers for the sludge/doom sound, something Osborne takes very lightly.
“The sludge is sort of one little part of what we do that we do, but everybody blows it up,” Osborne says. “The attitude is really the big influence for people, whether they understand it or not.”
Melvins were also the catalyst for grunge icons Nirvana’s inception. The story goes, that along with drummer Dale Crover, Osborne was actually in a band with Kurt Cobain called Fecal Matter. Once the band called it quits, Osborne, a childhood friend of Cobain, introduced Cobain to Krist Novoselic who would later become Nirvana’s bassist.
The incessant obsession surrounding Cobain’s death from fans and historians still plagues Osborne to this very day. He has openly said, many times, that many of the documentaries and accounts of Cobain’s life and death are 95 percent fabricated.
“People have to understand that I will say what I want,” Osborne says. “Melvins are not massively famous and we’re not on the same level of fame as those guys in Nirvana, so people automatically think that we don’t take our opinions serious. I’ve had Nirvana biographers argue with me about facts, even though I was fucking there. It’s just fucking horrible. I would much rather him be not famous and alive than famous and dead.”
Osborne’s unapologetic tone has followed Melvins since day one and translates into the band’s live performance.
“You have to sell people on the songs first and forget the theatrics,” Osborne says. “ I’d rather be as naked as possible.”
Although, on stage, he never is naked. He’s rocking his technicolour muumuu.
“It’s a little confusing, but I do it to separate myself from everyone else. Melvins are not your garden variety stoner rock band. You either get us or you don’t.”
Mon., July 17 (7:30 pm)
Union Hall, $25