Album: Prick

Released: 1994

Label: Amphetamine Reptile

Well here you go, the first Melvins recording that I can’t talk positively about. The album was made as a way to finance the sessions for their next record, so they put together kind of a joke record, comprised of quotes, ambient material, noise, field recordings and a whole mess of other crap.

The title Prick is a dig at Kurt Cobain whom Buzz regretting letting him fuck up the Houdini sessions. In fact, the album was going to be called Kurt Kobain until he died at which time they change the title.

I listen to a lot of music that most sane people wouldn’t get near and I can usually find something worth while in almost everything but don’t let any positive reviews about this album fool you. This is a total piece of shit. There is absolutely nothing worth listening to on this record. There’s the four minute “Montreal” which is almost nothing but crown noise and then “Roll Another One” which is 14 minutes of random nonsense all jumbled together into one track.

I do realize this is kind of a joke recording but it’s totally unlistenable even so.

“Punch the Lion”

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Album: Stoner Witch

Released: 1994

Label: Atlantic

Most people consider Stoner Witch one of the centerpieces of a great career and possibly their best of the three albums for Atlantic records. But this marks the point where my opinion of the band started changing.

The Melvins didn’t belong on Atlantic and I’m sure by this point even Atlantic knew that. But even so, they put some pretty straight forward rock tunes on this one, that might have had a chance at being hits. “Sweet Willy Rollbar” is a fantastic quick number but the two radio ready hits were what was attractive about the album. “Queen” is the more rockin’ of the two, while “Revolve” is a uniquely melodic tune to be coming from the Melvins. Some of this may come from the other band members input as on this record, the other guys actually get writing credits which was a unique thing for the group.

“Revolve” is the fourth track on the album and up to that point the record seems promising. But after this point, it all goes south with me. Starting with the remarkably slow “Goose Freight Train,” continuing with the wandering “At the Stake” and the three-and-a-half minutes of noise that leads off “Magic Pig Detective” it’s a drastic turn of events after such a radio friendly start. The nine minute quiet drone of “Lividity” closes out the album but I rarely make it all the way to the end as by this point I’m either asleep or have moved on.

Give me the first four as an EP and I’m fine but put it all together and this all just seems like a group that’s lost its edge. Lots of people love it, so maybe I just don’t get the vibe but it’s certainly not from a lack of trying.

“Revolve” (Live)

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Album: Stag

Released: 1996

Label: Atlantic

Stag is the third and final major label record and the last push to get the Melvins a real hit, though “push” may be the wrong word as Atlantic probably couldn’t wait to dump these guys off onto someone else as I can’t believe they ever turned any type of profit from the group.

The record itself has much more variety than Stoner Witch and therefore I like this release better. Atlantic released lead track, “The Bit” as a single hoping it would catch on at rock radio but the gem of the record is the other single, “Bar-X the Rocking M” which had a very different sound for the group thanks to the trombone on it courtesy of “Dirty Walt” from Fishbone.

The most interesting tune on the record has to be “Black Bock,” which is very lighthearted musically but works the best because the lyrics don’t fit the music at all. Here’s this mellow, trippy tune that starts off with the verse;

“I cut the throat of a billy goat and let it bleed / His frozen eyes were far more than I / It’s kind of nice to know the things that make me happy / Just realize keep the dog away from me.” (Hey, lyrics that actually make sense!)

For every moment of pure noise or experimentation like “Soup,” there’s a rockin’ tune connected to it, in that case the almost prog-ish “Buck Owens” which is a fierce mix of jolting guitar riffs. And don’t let the fact that “Captain Pungent” is buried at the end of the disc fool you, it’s both rockin’ and finger snappin’ at the same time.

It’s certainly not Houdini but it’s much easier to listen to than Stoner Witch in my book. Either way, there’s no doubt that it’s a good thing this is the Melvins last recording for Atlantic.

“Bar-X the Rocking M”

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Album: Honky

Released: 1997

Label: Amphetamine Reptile

If you were into the Melvins back in the day, hopefully you realized they had been dropped by Atlantic and that just like Prick, this album was being released on Amphetamine Reptile as well. Of course that meant is was going to be an odd release and Buzz didn’t disappoint on that front.

Created for very little cash as a stop gap between albums, a lot of fans consider this their most experimental record but I don’t really understand that when Prick exists. At least this album has some actual songs on it. That’s not to say it isn’t a little different for the band. There are feedback drenched freak outs like “Lovely Butterfly,” drone moments like the strangely titled “How –++–” and electronic ditties like “Laughing with Lucifer at Satan’s Sideshow.” Their sense of humor is back with the latter track including clips of what staffers at Atlantic would say to them, like “We don’t do special packaging for bands that haven’t gone gold” and “You should consider yourself lucky, any other major label would’ve dropped you by now.” The album closes with another freakout tune “In the Freaktose the Bugs are Dying,” which is a loud, chaotic assault to your senses for about 4 minutes and then features 25 minutes of absolute silence.

It may be an experimental record but it’s also one of their most intriguing as well. They’ve mixed enough really good material in with the strange tunes to warrant repeated listens at least. That said, casual listeners can skip this one.

“How —++—”

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About the Author

Dave Steed

Dave Steed is all about music; 80's and metal to be exact. His iPod will shuffle from Culture Club to Slayer and he won't blink an eye. He's never heard Astral Weeks but thinks "Dazzey Duks" by Duice is the bomb. It's an odd little corner of the world he lives in.

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