The Melvins at The Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Friday June 3, 2011
The Melvins are constantly re-inventing themselves, and dredging up the sticky grime and sludge that sailed their barge at a snail-like pace decades ago would seem a curious gambit. Hitting a select six city tour dubbed the “Endless Residency” that was field-tested and honed in their adopted Los Angeles home via a series of weekly shows at Spaceland (recorded and on offer at the merch table in an extremely limited, four cd edition of 50 copies) , the band yanked the dark heart of their prodigious discography (Bullhead, Eggnog, Lysol, Houdini and Stoner Witch, a run from ’91 to ’94 that is among the greatest uninterrupted streak of any band) out of the ribcage and held it aloft like a medieval battle trophy.
Chris Weingarten laid down a pretty convincing article on how Lysol (immediately slapped with an eponymous tag after the household cleaner conglomerate unleashed their legal team) was the germination point for an avalanche of new directions in heavy music, that clutch of dark, heavy-shelled eggs bringing forth a wide variety of beasts, their wings beating the next decade and beyond with sonic damage and the blueprint to make loud, heavy music in a multitude of ways that signaled this was not your father’s metal band.
Lysol was released as a one track record, as King Buzzo (tonight, riding the cowl of his mumu high over his chin like Mort from Bazooka Joe) didn’t want to allow people to skip the opening drones and sickly, amorphous clouds of “Hung Bunny,” and tonight the band would amplify that strategy by starting the show with the even longer, darker and inscrutable “Charmicarmicat” that eventually lurched its way into “Hung Bunny.” Moving like a Komodo dragon on ketamine, the massive waves of sound slowly flickered out like a forked tongue, the crash of synchronized drums as the heavy footfalls of the terrible creature. And to think that this band’s next record was released on Atlantic. Thank you, post-Nevermind major label feeding frenzy.
Of their three records that forced their way into the mainstream via this alliance with Atlantic, Houdini was the first and most well-received. As a band that never does obvious, the LP track listing was again ignored for a new sequence, and after the mostly obtuse offerings of the Lysol/Eggnog set (the Alice Cooper covers of “Second Coming” and “Ballad of Dwight Fry” excepted), the second set, after the venomous drip of “Hag Me” (full set list), changed the game plan and all knobs, dials and switches were flung to FULL ROCK mode. If you’ve ever looked at a drum stick up close, the plastic bit at the end is about the size of an olive pit. The sticks used by Dale Crover and Coady Willis are more akin to an apricot stone, and when they hit the drum heads the velocity and force is as if they’re at the fair, slamming down like they are trying to win the strong man contest and ringing the bell on every single stroke.
Willis and bass player Jared Warren weren’t on these original recordings but as full-time members of the band since ’06 they have completely jelled with Crover and Osborne, the latter more animated in performance tonight than ever, slashing and burning his way with his transparent-bodied guitar. The crowd erupted into a flailing mess of arms and head-banging when “Honey Bucket” was slammed into everyone’s pores, and their more straight rock moments (their dirge-like cover of “Going Blind,” and the circa 1983 mutated pop song of “Set Me Straight” that slid right into “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” a song from another famous power trio written by a non-douche member) helped balance the off-kilter ersatz funk bass of “Sky Pup” and the brooding thunderstorm of “Lizzy.” This is a ferocious band, and unlike most dewy-eyed glances back at past glories, night one of the residency proved to be an affirmation of all that’s great about loud, uncompromising rock music.