The name on the spine says Crystal Fairy and there’s been lots of pomp & circumstance but the record, out last week, is less a document of a super-group in the making than a Melvins side project. Starring the inimitable Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover, the record crunches and grinds like something straight out of Basses Loaded or Hold It In. This is not to say Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (At The Drive-In, Mars Volta), on bass, and Terri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes), on vocals, are here just for the scenery. Rodriguez-Lopez plays the bottom end to Crover’s kit with fervor, echoing, at times, the Stag and Stoner Witch textures of Mark Deutrom, and Gender Bender is singing out her brains, posturing with some of the most cunning attitude and character performances on this side of Buzzo.
I just don’t love it.
Well, for one, while it’s endlessly cool to hear a female vocalist (and a good one) paired with Buzzo’s grinding guitar refrains, Gender Bender, when she doesn’t sound like she’s channeling Geddy Lee, sounds like she’s singing the same kind of song over and over again. There’s a lot of sonic depth to the record – I still can’t believe they pulled off “Under Trouble” and “Sweet Self,” two bluesier numbers – but Gender Bender doesn’t match it or offer the kind of color that Osbourne does on a Melvins disc. And that, when you listen to the record through and through a few times, is a distraction, if only a very minor one.
That said, this thing kicks and screams with a fervor and most Melvins fans – they are legion – will devour it without questioning the finer points. Is it as good as the group’s outings with Jello Biafra or Lustmord? Maybe. Biafra got the lineup sounding like a finer-tuned beast and the Lustmord record took more chances than Crystal Fairy ever dreams of taking. But it fits in the canon. There are some good songs, some incredible ones, and some moments where Gender Bender, in particular, sounds like she’s singing as a person possessed with the spirit of something brilliant. Just, y’know, a solid B+, and, for Melvins-sized expectations, that’s not Hostile Ambient Takeover or Houdini territory.