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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1993's major label debut,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)'Houdini' by Melvins is an album often cited as their best work, which is definitely something that divides the fans, it seems that like bands like The Dead, The Fall & Sonic Youth, everyone has their own Melvins' fave and it could be 'Houdini', just as often as it could be 'Hostile Ambient Takeover', 'Stag', 'Bullhead', 'Ozma', '(A) Senile Animal', or the 'Lysol/Melvins' album. I'm not sure 'Houdini' is the band's most mainstream release, it was on a major label, but in line with the band who released material before and after - I'd probably single out 'The Crybaby' as the most mainstream one as it had guests and cover versions people would know (the kind of record that would breakthrough due to the quirky version of 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' with Leif Garrett alongside other guests like Hank Williams III, Mike Patton, Adam Jones of Tool and J.G. Thirwell aka Foetus). 'Houdini' is an album singled out due to the association with the late Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who is viewed as the producer - working on this between 'Nevermind' and 'In Utero.' However, as the credits show, Melvins produced part of it themselves and in collaboration with Cobain and Gggarth Richardson. In a recent interview in the Wire, King Buzzo dismisses 'Houdini', preferring the live version released last year, and points to Cobain's well recorded addictions. So, while Cobain has something to do with this record, he's no John Cale figure behind it all - we should remind ourselves that Nirvana's 'Bleach' was heavily influenced by Melvins, that Dale Crover briefly drummed for Nirvana, & that Cobain failed an audition to become Melvins' bassist (the bass-position in Melvins is not far from Spinal Tap's take on drummers!!).
Recorded during the "Grunge Years", 'Houdini' was the first of a trilogy of albums recorded for Atlantic alongside 'Stoner Witch' (1994) and 'Stag' (1996)- though the band did find time for the usual array of side-projects and 1994's 'Prick' by Snivlem, released on Amphetamine Reptile records (where they would release the hard to find 'Honky' and a series of singles once dropped by Atlantic). It's probably the least interesting of the three Atlantic albums - 'Stoner Witch' is both poppier and stranger, while 'Stag' veers off into bizarre directions, with many an experimental piece and psychedelic/jazz inflected material like 'The Bit' and 'Bar-X' (the latter sounding like Sabbath playing something from 'Giant Steps' by the Boo Radleys!!!). Still...this is the Melvins and 'Houdini' is a fine collection of songs and like Screaming Trees' 'Sweet Oblivion' a better album than 'In Utero', 'Superunknown' or other releases from the more well known acts associated with the grunge phenemenon (it should be pointed out that Melvins, like Mudhoney and Screaming Trees, were around years before the 'G'-tag came into existence!). 'Houdini' has guests, including Billy Anderson (bass on 'Hag Me' and 'Teet'), Bill Bartell (bass/lead guitar on 'Goin' Blind')& Cobain, playing his trademark guitar on 'Sky Pup' and contributing percussion to 'Spread Eagle Beagle' alongside Al Smith, Mike Supple & Crover.
Melvins constant duo of King Buzzo and Dale Crover parted company with Joe Preston (Earth, High on Fire, Thrones) and the lengendary Lorax rejoined on bass (having been in an earlier line-up that released the classic 'Bullhead' LP). The collection manages to fuse the 'My War'-Black Flag influences with Sabbath, but by now was a sound all of the Melvins' own - this was probably the LP Cobain wanted to make with 'In Utero', had he not had the obvious problems we read about in his published diaries...
'Houdini' is a great collection, showcasing the sludgy metal sound in full, alongside the tight playing of all Melvins line-ups, no doubt influenced by their punk/hardcore origins. Check the opening of 'Honey Bucket' out, which sounds like a jazz-Meat Puppets, the opening of the lengthy 'Hag Me', or the epic closing piece 'Spread Eagle Beagle', which is a drum-lead piece that predicts the industrial directions the band have continued on albums like 'Colossus of Destiny' and 'Pigs of the Roman Empire.'
There is the poppier side of the band, apparent in live favourite 'Set Me Straight', their cover of 'Goin' Blind' from Kiss's 'Hotter Than Hell', and the 70s rock chant 'Joan of Arc', which has some screaming that reminds me of the Sweet (probably wouldn't have worried the charts if released though!). 'Sky Pup' is kind of funky, though sounds like Nirvana chanelling Fishbone and TG at the same time - the recent live version is much better, as Crover's lead rap comes to the fore.
Opener 'Hooch' takes no prisoners, a monster dirge riff coming straight in with Buzzo's howl, keeping the uncompromising riff-heavy material coming with the classic 'Night-Goat', though again, I'd point to the superior (& much longer) take on 'a live history of gluttony and lust', which is as great as the current epic take on 'The Bit' in Melvins' live shows. The band sometimes revisit their material and more often than not, improve on the original. The trilogy of 'Teet', 'Cop-Ache' and 'Pearl Bomb' are much more punk rock, though the one song that probably ranks as my favourite is 'Lizzy', which sounds like a psychedelic Nirvana and has that great point where the band/riff comes in...wonderful.
'Houdini' is a great album, though probably far from the best of the Melvins' back catalogue - it is an album that the band revisited for the ATP-sponsored 'Don't Look Back' series of concerts, a tradition which continues this year with bands like The House of Love, Slint, and Sonic Youth playing one of their albums in a complete version. At an ATP festival in Spain, Melvins are due to revisit 'Houdini' once again, though I kind of love their current manic medley which includes several tracks from it alongside material from 'Honky' and 'Ozma' and a cover of Cream's 'Deserted Cities of the Heart' (DCH). The live version from 2005 is better, though with a change in the running order and some drastically reworked versions - heck, it's the Melvins and really, ye should own it all.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of their best,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)perhaps its a bit too straight for the hardcore melvinite, but this album makes a fantastic introduction to one of the most unique bands in the world. inspiring nirvana, who were essentially a watered down more pop version, the melvins specialize in sludge music and think nothing of spending an hour playing a single song. anyway this album features honey bucket and is worth the price for that alone
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Most mainstream release to date,
By A Customer
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)This is the Melvins most comercial sounding record to date, it also shows what is to come in following albums with weirder tracks such as "Sky pup". The opening track "Hooch" is a classic, with "Hag me" and "Night goat" following its brilliance closely. Not much experimental stuff in here though, so would be enjoyed more by Nirvana, Mudhoney etc. fans. This album also features Kurt Cobain on drums on the last track.
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the Melvins!,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)What can I say but this is a collector's must have! Especially if you love the Melvins! Awesome stuff! Must have!
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)Knew about this album from the track Honey Bucket, which I always considered to be one of the best hard rock songs of all time. Thought I'd give it a go. One of the best albums I've ever heard. This is an essential for any rock fan.
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinnacle Of The Melvins,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)The Melvins found themselves in the right place and the right time in '93, as record companies were desperately looking for the next big grunge band. Atlantic swept up the band, a somewhat odd move as really, none of their previous records were particularly "grunge", nor were they accessible for mainstream listeners. Questionable move or not, the result was the Cobain-produced "Houdini", a monolithic sweep of huge riffs, grooves, vocal harmonies and eccentric experimentation.
With the exception of the quirky "Sky Pup", every song on "Houdini" has something to give. The album is packed with Melvins classics, such as the brooding "Night Goat", which showcases Buzzo in fine form, switching vocal styles with ease and laying down monumental riffs. "Goin Blind" is a superb adaptation of the Kiss original, shifting it into a glorious heavy onslaught juxtaposed with excellent vocal harmonies. "Hag Me" is Melvins at their sludgy, sloth-like best, reverting back to their roots (a la "Lysol") and swaggering through wonderfully thick walls of tone and gritty vocals. Another major positive is the album's sense of flow, with many songs seeping into one another. This is particularly evident in the later stages of the album, with the short combinations of "Joan of Arc", "Teet" and "Copache", all of which combine the thundering guitar heroics of Buzzo with delicious vocal melodies.
The Melvins always experiment and create moments of true dementia. And while "Houdini" has a very quirky feel to it, it balances the levels of experimentation perfectly, resulting in arguably the band's best release. Fans of heavy rock looking for something a little different should pick this up.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its the best way to start off with the MELVINS!,
This review is from: Houdini (Audio CD)Buy this album NOW! It will have such an impact on you! it will either tell you stay away! i dont like that SH*T! or you will be amazed and want to by every single album they ever made! (and there are loads!)It is a really good starting point too because it is tame compared to some of their other stuff! not their best but well worth it! so what? are you waiting for go buy it!
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