The Popdose Guide to the Melvins

Written by Music, Popdose Guides

Dave Steed takes the long journey through the odd career of the legendary Melvins.

EP: King Buzzo

Released: 1992

Label: Boner

So Lorax leaves and Joe Preston joins the group on bass and the first thing they do is their take on Kiss’ solo records from the ’70s. The King Buzzo record is the best out of the three solo records. Dale Nixon played drums, guitar and bass on this record and some thought that was Greg Ginn from Black Flag at first because that’s the name he used to record at various points. But Dale Nixon turned out to be uber fan and Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl.

“Isabella” is a fantastic little rock number led off by about a minute-and-a-half of just Dave’s drumming with a slight bit of feedback underneath before King Buzzo adds a ridiculously fuzzed out riff over top for the remainder of the tune.

Second tune, “Porg” is simply a repetitive machine-like beat with more feedback mixed in before one of the two guys hums, laughs, grunts, squeals and makes what would seem to be random noises for the last minute or so.

“Annum” starts slow and minimal, slowly building into an almost catchy pop tune, repeating that second a second time before following it with a jolting juxtaposition of heavy beats and subtle moments before ending on a quieter note.

The EP ends with “Skeeter” a tune that doesn’t even have King Buzzo on it at all. Grohl originally released the spoken word narrative on his Pocketwatch demo, Late!, released in 1990. A bit of an odd inclusion here, but a cool track and who knows, maybe it was put on simply as a thanks to Dave for playing on the disc.

“Isabella”

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EP: Dale Crover

Released: 1992

Label: Boner

The other guys in the band didn’t really get the chance to write much, as Osborne brought all the tunes to the table, so if nothing else it was really interesting to see what the other members had to offer.

Dale Crover’s EP contains four songs, all written by him. He played drums and guitar on the tunes, while Debbi Shane played bass. “Hex Me” is a short instrumental intro to “Dead Wipe” which is awesomely fuzzed out and melodic.

“Respite” is a psychedelic stoner number that feels like a great acid trip but “Hurter” is a pretty generic grunge tune in which Crover mumbles the lyrics so badly that they are hardly recognizable (at least Buzz’s are unrecognizable because they seem like random words just thrown together).

Overall, it’s not bad but it’s a true fan only type release.

“Dead Wipe”

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EP: Joe Preston

Released: 1992

Label: Boner

Joe Preston’s EP is easily the strangest of the three records. The credits on the record go like this:

Joe Preston: Vocals

Denial Fiend: Hellish Crossfire on Wooden Coffins

Salty Green: Chapman Stick on Hands First Flower

“Salty Green” is a name Preston has often used but no one is really sure who “Denial Fiend” is, though it’s often been told that Preston is the only player on the album.

“The Eagle Has Landed” is a jazz number with a baby crying hysterically underneath while “Bricklebrit” is a noisy abstract rock number. The EP closer is “Hands First Flower” a 23-minute drone number that wouldn’t even remotely be out of place in bands he would join later, like Earth and Sunn O))).

“Bricklebrit”

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Album: Lysol (aka The Melvins)

Released: 1992

Label: Boner

Lysol marked the first album as a band with Joe Preston on bass instead of Lorax. It was originally released with the title Lysol down the right hand side of the cover but then Boner records was told that was copyright infringement and put some black marker and tape over the name and the album became self-titled.

Six tracks on the vinyl version but one continuous track on the CD issue, it’s a bit of an oddball. “Hung Bunny” is the drone-iest track they’ve done up until this point and at 10:42, it often feels like it’s never going to end. “Roman Dog Bird” is an epic 7 1/2 minute sludge tune while the cover of the Flipper tune, “Sacrifice” sounds a whole lot like something Clutch would put out later down the line.

Those tunes are followed by two Alice Cooper covers off their album Love It To Death from 1971. The instrumental “Second Coming” is followed by the downright poppy, “The Ballad of Dwight Frye” which actually chops off a full verse from the original. The album ends with a quick sludge tune named “With Teeth” that feels a little unfinished to me.

The album is a fan favorite but the two Alice Cooper tracks just feel a bit out of place for me. Take those two out and you’ve got another nice little EP though.

“With Teeth”

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Album: Houdini

Released: 1993

Label: Atlantic

So you don’t like sludge and you don’t care for drone or doom but you still want to try to get into the Melvins? Let me introduce you to Houdini.

Snatched up by Atlantic records in the great Grunge push of ’92-’93, being friends with Kurt Cobain didn’t hurt matters in the least bit. So Atlantic thought they could make some money off The Melvins and decided to give them some major label backing, which goes down as one of the odder major signings in the last few decades. But really, at this point how could Buzz turn the offer down?

Cobain actually wanted to produce some stuff for the group and so, he sat in on the sessions and produced six of the tracks, though his level of involvement has been questioned over the years. The back cover also shows Lorax as playing bass and although I don’t think it’s ever been confirmed or denied, most people seem pretty sure she had no involvement in the record and that engineer Billy Anderson was the only bass player on it.

Houdini is the first record from the group that was really very accessible. While you can certainly debate if this is the heaviest record up to this point, it’s hard to argue that it’s the fastest and heaviest album. Sludgey tunes like “Joan of Arc” or “Hag Me” are few on the disc, instead Buzz speeds up, plays some killer riffs and throws some really rockin’ grunge tunes in your face on this one.

Without a doubt there’s some serious Nirvana-like moments on the disc. The Cobain produced “Hooch” and “Set Me Straight” certainly have some influence from him, as well as the guitar parts of “Pearl Bomb.” Cobain actually played guitar on “Sky Pup” though you can’t really tell just by listening and performed on the oddball, “Spread Eagle Beagle” – a ten minute, percussion only instrumental. The love of Kiss continued with a cover of “Going Blind” and I’d place my vote for “Honey Bucket” as one of the hardest songs the group ever put out.

“Beagle” aside, it’s a damn rockin’ album. Not a major label album, but certainly easier to digest than a lot of their work. Houdini is another really good place to start for the casual fan.

“Honey Bucket”

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