For Love of The Melvins

In the near future, I will be seeing a live performance by the Melvins and am understandably quite excited by this.  I have been a fan of the group for many years now, but have found them to be something of a hard sale, when I share them with others.  Indeed, they may be more of a cult band, or a best kept secret, as their appeal is often far from mainstream.

Their music is known for it’s extremely heavy, extremely slow guitar riffs accompanied by Buzz Osborne’s often slurred, angry, howling vocal parts, not to mention Dale Crover’s phenomenal Drum work.  This sound played an important role in the development of the Seattle Scene which would later be made famous by Nirvana and their contemporaries.  The Melvins, being from Montesano, Washing, are often credited as being one of, if not the, first bands in the area, to give up, fast-paced punk, and focus on slower heavy grooves, inspired largely by those on the second half of Black Flag’s album My War.  Their sound existed largely on the boarder between heavy metal, punk and experimental rock, which would become a theme among bands in the Seattle underground.

They music was a big influence on Kurt Cobain, who auditioned for the Melvins, served as a Roadie for them, and contributed to their major label deal, after his band, Nirvana hit big.  In fact, Melvins drummer, was a short lived member of Nirvana in 1988 and 1990.  The more sludgy aspect of Nirvana’s sound, as well as those of Sound Garden, Tool, Isis, Green River and Eyehate God, can at least in part be traced back to the Melvins.

Over the years the Melvins have been quite prolific and varied.  Though they maintain the basic elements of their sound, any given album can feature material that fall into Sludge Metal, Stoner Metal, Drone Metal, Noise Rock, Grunge, Jazz, Experimental, Punk, or just straight forwardhard rock.  They even did one album, The Bootlicker, that focuses on the softer aspects of their sound.  The band usually performs as a power trio, but more recent line ups have included two drummers.  The only consistent members are Buzz Osborne (aka King Buzzo), on guitar and vocals, and Dale Crover, who is widely reguarded as one of the best and most hard-hitting drummers in Alternative rock.  The group has had a handful of excellent base players of the years, one of them Lori Black is the daughter of fame child actress and American icon Shirley Temple.

Buzzo’s vocals range from low growls, howls and shouts to genuine crooning and low whispers.  His lyrics are often difficult to understand and even harder to make much sense.  These often revolve around the band’s strange sense of humor which is illustrated in song titles like:  Sweet Willy Rollbar, Night-Goat, Goose Freight Train, Spread Eagle Beagle, Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown),  She Chokes Her Dying Breath and Does It in My Face, Hung Bunny, Jew Boy Flower Head, Civilized Worm, Magic Pig Detective and many more.

The group always sounds tight, yet rough around the edges.  While countless bands they have influenced or collaborated with at different points have achieve much fame, the Melvins seem content as great American cult musicians.  They have been given numerous chances to compromise, sell out or create commercial releases, but have constantly refused to do this.  For that I will always admire them.

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