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Album from an expanded Melvins...,
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This review is from: A Senile Animal (Audio CD)
A Senile Animal appears to be something like the eighteenth album from the cult joy known as the Melvins, a band centred around the pairing of King Buzzo and Dale Crover and a band who are only now just getting their dues with a recent cover on The Wire to tie in with their ATP performances. Perhaps the UK press has never given them much of a chance, and maybe I wrote them off due to the irritating grunge era when I first heard them. Going back through the Warners-compilation Melvinmania, their Cobain-associated classic Houdini (performed at Don't Look Back a few years ago), and albums like Bullhead, Stag, and Howdy it seems that there is much that is great to the band (as well as many different directions taken with Joe Preston, Jello Biafra, Fantomas & Lustmord). Just a shame so much of their back catalogue is relatively hard to find in the UK...
A Senile Animal is therefore as good a place as any to discover the joys of the Melvins, Buzzo and Crover expanding their line-up to include second drummer Coady Willis and bassist Jared Warren from band Big Business. Not many bands assimilate members of another band, though The Fall did do it recently with members of Darker My Love to so-so effect on their Reformation Post TLC LP. The Melvins' assimilation is much more successful, as great as anything released before, and no surprise when considering their frequent collaborations over that brilliant career.
The twin-drum effect and the harmonic vocals from Warren (I assume) give the Melvins a fresh sound, fusing with those monster Black Flag/Sabbath riffs and Buzzo's distinctive howl. It all sets off swimmingly with The Talking Horse, which showcases the twin-drum set-up wonderfully - like the majority of the album this is a song relatively to the point and located in the 2 to 3 minute duration (six of the songs in total). This is balance with the longer tracks, the hypnotic Civilized Worm (feels like the missing link between Mastodon and Nirvana), and the closing triad of A History of Bad Men, The Mechanical Bride, and A Vast Filthy Prison.
As with many other Melvins releases it's a hugely eclectic collection that doesn't just fit the one note sludge rock tag - A History of Drunks sounds like Never Say Die-Sabbath channelling Is This It? , while the Hawk reminds me a little of their psyched-out peers the Butthole Surfers. Blood Witch has a central rhythm as off as Husker Du's Terms of Psychic Warfare or Prince's Dance On, which is hugely effective with the harmonic 70s type vocals and one of those killer riffs, the point where the percussion builds up is pretty darn wonderful too...
You've Never Been Right taps into their roots in the US hardcore scene, the band often feeling like relatives of the Minutemen at their most inventive, as well as a band enamoured with the Blacks of Flag and Sabbath. Watching them perform material from this live, I got it into my head it was like a blend of Krautrock and Sabbath, though this was probably down to something else at the time. A History of Bad Men does have a drum rhythm worthy of a Krautrock band, while the music is very Hairway to Steven, yet cut with a lot of the melody apparent in acts like Mastodon, Masters of Reality, and Queens of the Stone Age. The drums and percussion on closing track A Vast Filthy Prison display a jazz-sensibility, the song feeling akin to the best of Tortoise. There have been lots of things written on Melvins-associate Kurt Cobain lately, lots of BS and wish fulfilment - but A Vast does sound like the kind of record he might have been doing had he survived. It is shot through with the melody apparent in his work, but with many alternative and hardcore elements too, a subtle piece that shows the Melvins can go off in many other directions...
A Senile Animal was definitely one of the highlights of 2006 and another part of that brilliant career, it was probably the best album with a guitar on last year. It would be interesting to see if this line-up produces anything else, I think a live album would be wild. The Melvins, like that Peel-addage centred on the Fall: always the same, always different...