Isn’t it great to have grunge back? The last couple of years have seen not just the rise of hardcore revivalists like the Pissed Jeans and Fucked Up, but also a resurgence of the two key originators of grunge: Mudhoney and the Melvins. Mudhoney’s main release has been an essential deluxe edition of their once criminally overlooked Superfuzz Bigmuff, but the Melvins are sounding as fresh as ever with the support of the guitar-less Big Business. With the excellent but somewhat safe (A) Senile Animal, the Melvins were getting used to having an additional rhythm section. Nude with Boots, on the other hand, is arguably the most experimental album the band has ever recorded.
Yes, Black Sabbath and classic stoner metal are the main influences, and there are a lot of derivative elements to the album. But what’s so innovative is not the content but also the style — a new breed of fragmented metal that brings grunge into the A.D.D. generation. The table is set with opener "The Kicking Machine," which begins with a snare/guitar combo straight out of the Zeppelin playbook. Once you get to the church-like vocals and speed-metal freak-out ending, though, you realize this is no ordinary metal album. Each track ends abruptly, as the next track begins where you least expect it.
Take, for instance, "Billy Fish" which begins sounding like Pearl Jam and ends as Iron Maiden. Or "Suicide in Progress," a Blue Öyster Cult-sounding expedient rocker with cryptic lyrics that has a minute of glass shattering at the end of the track. The most complete track on the album is the title track, where the double drums, guitar, and vocals are all in sync. Considering the eccentricities of each of those elements, this constitutes something of a minor miracle.
But when Nude sinks, it sinks hard. The clunker of the first half is not the seven-minute sludgy behemoth "Dog Island" but the abhorrent, useless follow-up "Dies Irae," which requires an upbeat track like "Suicide" to save the entire album.
There’s also a three song, six-minute stretch at the end of the album that leaves Nude teetering on oblivion, but the glorious mess of "It Takes Better Than the Truth" brings all the weirdness together. That closing track is five minutes of absolute metal anarchy, leaving you with a baffling aftertaste befitting of how baffling Nude with Boots sounds. Some are sure to hate it, but unlike any Melvins album since Houdini, Nude With Boots certainly demands your attention.