Album: The Maggot
Mark Deutrom was now gone from the band and was replaced on bass by Kevin Rutmanis of the recently broken up Cows. Kevin’s style certainly made an immediate impact on the sound of the next few records.
The Maggot was the first of “The Trilogy” of albums that would be released on Mike Patton’s newly formed record label, Ipecac. I was excited to hear that Mike Patton had started a record label and it wasn’t until many years later that it would get the reputation of being the label that any artist could take a shit in a bucket and put out an album on. But also looking back now, it was a match made in heaven. And The Maggot was released just a month after Patton released the first Fantomas record which featured Buzz on guitars.
If you take the record as a whole, this is the hardest disc the Melvins had released up until this point. Rutmanis cranked the low end, Buzz brought out some true heavy metal licks and Dale pounded the crap out of his drums.
All the songs on this record are broken up into two parts for no apparent reason. And I don’t mean there’s a transition between different sounding passages in each song but rather just somewhere around the middle of the track there’s a cut. And some of the song titles are even repeated, just stylized a little differently like “amazon” and “AMAZON” and “judy” and “we all love JUDY.”
There’s some really fantastic tunes on The Maggot, like the bass heavy instrumental “judy” and the gritty and angry “AMAZON.” But the two that really stand out are “the horn bearer” which is a maniacal mix of noise and Kevin’s screams and “the green manalishi (with the two pronged crown)” which is an unlikely cover of a Fleetwood Mac tune from 1970 (the Peter Green days).
The Maggot is a challenging record for sure but rewarding in the end and definitely a sign of what was coming for the band.
“the horn bearer”
Album: The Bootlicker
The middle album of “The Trilogy,” this is the laid back, maybe even funky disc. This album is led by the 11 minute groovy “Let It All Be.” The first half of the song is almost something you could get up and dance to, while the second part leads with some feedback, followed by a very minimal riff repeated until the end of the song, with a very spacey feel to it. It’s also a little hard to ignore songs with titles like “Up the Dumper” and “Jew Boy Flower Head.”
The Bootlicker is one of the few records in the catalog that I don’t have much to say about though. Sometimes I find it amazing and sometimes I find it bland. It really depends upon my mood. The droning, distorted, crazy electronic nature of closing track “Prig” is really the only experiment on the record and having had the final track be the epic, out-of-place tune on so many other Melvins discs already, it simply feels like it’s been done before. Critics seemed to like it because it is a very listenable record which really, I would have never expected again once they moved off the major label.
“Up the Dumper”
Album: The Crybaby
And then there’s the final disc of the trilogy, 2000′s The Crybaby. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started listening to the album only to never get past track one.
Since there’s a cover track on almost everything the Melvins put out, it only made sense to work in a covers album at some point in their career. The Crybaby is halfway to that album with half covers and half original tunes featuring a ton of other artists.
The first song that I can’t get past, is their cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I’m not one of these super Nirvana fans that thinks nothing from them should ever be touched. My problem with the song is the choice of singer, Leif Garrett. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, the song being sung by this former teen star. But any laughing point is killed because he simply can’t carry a tune. It’s a really painful listen to be honest.
Better though is the cover of the Jesus Lizard’s angry, “Blockbuster” featuring David Yow on vocals or the country twang of Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” which featured Hank III on vocals and Henry Bogdan from Helmet on guitar.
The album ends up being a must have for completists because of the guest artists on here. Mike Patton and Kevin Rutmanis wrote a song called “G.I. Joe” that wouldn’t be out of place on any of the future Tomahawk records. There’s also a fantastic song written by the group Skeleton Key, called “Spineless” which features three members of the band as well as Amanda Ferguson on vocals.
Other than “Teen Spirit” the one everyone talks about is “Divorced” written by Dale Crover which features all four members of Tool. Strangely enough, the song sounds exactly like you’d expect it to, a 15 minute blend of Tool prog and Melvins freakouts. It’s easily one of the best tracks the Melvins have released, though I’m a huge Tool fan so I could be biased.
And again, there’s another epically bizarre tune at the end called “Moon Pie” which features Kevin Sharp from Brutal Truth on vocals and samples. If you know anything about Brutal Truth and their massive grindcore kicks to the skull, you’d already know that “Moon Pie” is loud and in your face.
Listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” once, then in the future start with track #2 and you’ve got a decent record. The biggest issue for me is that because of full bands being on this and Buzz only singing now and again, this barely feels like a Melvins record. In fact, without knowing it was from them I don’t know how anyone would really be able to figure it out.
Once this record was released, Ipecac released all three together on 12″ officially titled The Trilogy. However in order to fit them on three LP’s they had to cut the final four songs from The Crybaby, even though all the tracks from the three records are listed as being on it.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Label: Man’s Ruin
The Melvins went to Man’s Ruin to release their first album since the Trilogy, which was the label run by Frank Kozik who did the artwork for this album and anything the Melvins did that pretty much looks like this one.
A few key inclusions here prevent Electroretard from being a throwaway. The first is a longgggggg cover of The Wipers, “Youth In America.” A great song in its original form from 1981, the Wipers got named dropped by a lot of grunge bands as a major influence.
The second is a version of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” that’s even spacier than the original. And the third is a cover of “I’m Missing” by Cows (Kevin Rutmanis’s former band).
The rest of the album features what’s called “new and improved” versions of older tracks, like reworkings of “Gluey Porch Treatments” and “Lovely Butterfly” (on this record as a plural). “Revolve” also shows up twice, once as a sub-par reworked version and leading off the album, backmasked with some extra effects and drums thrown in, retitled “Shit Storm.”
The reworked versions have a heavy emphasis on the “electro” (and maybe the “retard” as well) as the whole band is listed in the credits as playing the RMS 2000, which would appear to be some kind of computer like device that emits lots of buzzes and bleeps.
Live Album: Colossus of Destiny
Live records aren’t regularly included in these Popdose guides and as a general rule, I’m not a big fan of them anyway. But the Melvins have at least a couple that I didn’t feel right leaving out. Colossus of Destiny is the first one of those.
The performance was credited to Buzz, Crover, Korny Ass Joker (Rutmanis) and Adam Jones from Tool. It consists of two tracks, the first a 59 minute experimentation using synths and keyboards to create nothing by noise. Well okay, there’s also porn samples here and there and a version of “Eye Flys” at the very end. The second track is one beep and four seconds of silence.
Reportedly, the band turned up the amps so loud and used so much feedback and distortion that people were lying on the ground covering their ears, that is if they didn’t run out of the building first. Who knows if any of that is true or not but the performance is real for damn sure. I don’t know that I would have been able to stand for an hour and listen to this but it’s an interesting headphone listen. And that’s really the only way to listen to the record. By putting on headphones you hear all the weird little nuances and as you get through it you start to realize that there might actually be a method to the madness behind where each section of noise comes into play.
Generally sane people think this is garbage (and though I question his sanity too, if I’m not mistaken I think even the Korny Ass Joker has come out and said how miserable this is). The people that want you to think they have more sophisticated tastes than you, think it’s a brilliant work. I’m not going to make it out for anything it’s not. It’s an hour of noise. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s far more listenable than the other album it’s compared too, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and far less listenable than anything else they’ve done. Six years from now Buzz would make the Fantomas record Delerium Cordia which filled an entire disc with something similar though most noises on that record were from surgical instruments and the whole sound there is much quieter. But if you like that record, you can’t help but find similar love in Colossus of Destiny.
“Colossus of Destiny”