Live Album: Millennium Monsterwork 2000 (as The FantomasMelvins Big Band)
The second live record that’s worth a mention is the one where the Melvins and Fantomas joined forces to become the FantomasMelvins Big Band. I guess this was inevitable as well since they were on Ipecac and both groups shared the guitar work of King Buzzo. It feels a little like incest, with Rutmanis soon playing in Tomahawk with Patton, Trevor Dunn on base with Fantomas, having been part of Mr. Bungle and playing with the Melvins down the road as well.
Both bands were on stage at the same time playing a mix of Fantomas and Melvins tunes, with Patton’s nonsensical vocals leading the way on everything. It’s a startling record, one at which I at first thought was brutally horrible. But I’ve since backtracked on that finding some enjoyment out of listening to what amounts to a freak out supergroup on stage.
Even if you were a fan of Fantomas as the time, you might not have recognized titles like, “Cholo Charlie” or “Good Morning Slaves” as these were names attached to what were originally just numbered pages on their debut record.
They played 32 tracks at the show itself but for some reason only 18 show up on the official track listing and not even in the same order as they were played. I don’t know what version I have but it doesn’t include two tracks in the middle and includes an untitled one at the very end of the disc (which ends up being the scary screams from “The Omen”. Either way, it’s still not as it was played live. The end product contained only six Melvins tunes, “Night Goat,” “The Bit,” “Hooch,” “Momibus Hibachi,” “Skin Horse” and a new track called “Ol’ Black Stooges” which would be recorded for their next record. The concert contained eight more tunes from the group. I guess when the leader runs the label, you do what he wants.
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Album: Hostile Ambient Takeover
Hostile Ambient Takeover probably would have been a better name for the next record however it ends up being the true follow up record to the Trilogy. Although still an experimental record, this is the first point where I asked myself if I’ve already heard this record before.
Sure, there’s a bit of rockabilly on this one and the kind of creepy “The Anti-Vermin Seed” that are pretty damn cool. “The Brain Center At Whipples” has become a fan favorite over the years and the keyboard driven last 90 seconds of “The Fool, The Meddling Idiot” recall ’80s new wave more than anything else. But more often than not, Takeover kind of loses me.
For me, way more interesting than the album itself is the fact that Ipecac released each track as its own 7″ single with five of the seven tracks having a unique cover song on the B-side. If you picked up one of the 2,500 pressed of each one you would have gotten a cover of “Return of the Spiders” by Alice Cooper, “Jerkin’ Krokus” by Mott the Hoople, “Promise Me” by the Gun Club, “Today Your Love…” by the Ramones and a mix of “Arnie” by the Warlock Pinchers and “White Punks on Dope” by the Tubes.
“The Brain Center at Whipples”
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Album: Pigs of the Roman Empire (w/ Lustmord)
Not the oddest but certainly the most intriguing paring of the long career of the Melvins, comes a collaboration with dark ambient sound master, Lustmord. I had never heard of the guy before this record but I soon learned that he pretty much created this “dark ambient” genre taking mellow soundscapes and adding dark elements to it. So with this album, you’re mixing the rock riffs and experimentation of the Melvins with the ambient programming of Lustmord, which certainly adds a bit of a different element to the mix here.
All writing credits on this album belong to both King Buzzo and Lustmord, so this does end up being a true collaboration. On the days when I simply love this album, I hear great tunes like “The Bloated Pope” filled with Melvins riffs and neat electronic touches, “Safety Third” rocking my ass off with it’s oddly distorted vocals and a bunch of ambient pieces tying the whole thing together.
On days when I don’t love the album, I hear a five song EP by Lustmord and a four song EP by the Melvins, haphazardly thrown together with the 22 minute title track throwing a gigantic halt to momentum smack dab in the middle of the disc.
In reality it’s probably somewhere in between these two. The tracks that Buzz clearly had a bigger hand in writing are enhanced by the neat electronic touches, while the five instrumentals that would seemingly be tunes that Lustmord brought to the table get some jagged edges now and again thanks to the guitar work of both Buzz and Adam Jones.
In the end, Pigs of the Roman Empire is probably the only release from the group that really baffles me. I often think that more could have and should have been done with it, though I’m not sure what that would be, so maybe it’s okay on its own. After all, I do listen to it quite often.
“The Bloated Pope”
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Album: Never Breathe What You Can’t See (by Jello Biafra with the Melvins)
Label: Alternative Tentacles
I don’t hear this album get talked about much when mentioning the Melvins but since it’s one of the best of their career, that needs to change.
On paper and probably in practice the Melvins and former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra really don’t belong together. Biafra’s politically charged lyrics and punk sensibilities would seem to clash with the sludgy alt-rock and random gibberish of the Melvins but somehow it all works brilliantly.
Released on Biafra’s label Alternative Tentacles, The Melvins (credited as Saddam Disney, Jon Benet Milosevic and George W. McVeigh) played punk on this disc, showing their versatility once again. Fitting right in with Biafra’s (credited as Osama McDonald) style, blistering tunes like “The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism” and “Enchanted Thoughtfist” sound like nothing the Melvins have done and yet don’t seem out of place in the least bit. There are a few true Melvins moments though as “Caped Crusader” has all the sludgy elements the group is known for.
No matter what you think of the pairing of these two, I give the Melvins a tremendous amount of respect for once again changing it up and keeping their music fresh. This is an album that you really shouldn’t pass up because of that.
“The Lighter Side of Global Terrorism”
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Album: Sieg Howdy (w/ Jello Biafra)
Label: Alternative Tentacles
Unfortunately, one record from Biafra and the Melvins would prove to be enough as the follow up is quite weak. The album contains songs recorded during the same sessions as the first but that didn’t make the record (for good reason) as well as four remixes of tunes from Never Breathe and a shitty cover of Alice Cooper’s “Halo of Flies.”
The remixes are kind of boring. The remixes of “Caped Crusader” and “Global Terrorism” don’t sound much different than the originals and the Al Jourgensen mix of “Enchanted Thoughtfist” really has none of the elements that made him so great.
There are only two things worth your time on this record, a live update of the Dead Kennedys tune “California Über Alles,” about the governator winning the California elections and “Those Dumb Punk Kids (Will Buy Anything)” in which he throws some barbs at his former band mates.
Other than those two, it plays out just like the afterthought that it really is.
“Those Dumb Punk Kids Will Buy Anything”
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