Going on twenty five years as a band, The Melvins' new album, Nude With Boots, shows them stronger than ever. I want to tell you a little about my experience with the Melvins and how their new record rocks!
I first met Buzz in 1983. I was working at a Taco Bell when he and Matt Lukin stopped in to say hello to my co-worker, Bill. Bill had been expelled from Aberdeen High for setting off a pipe bomb. He was school mates with Buzz and Matt at nearby Montesano High.
Our two visitors were dressed differently than typical teenagers of the era - Buzz had on an old overcoat and Matt wore tattered flannel with heavy metal cheese grater wristbands.
I was aware of the first wave of punk from the late 1970's, but it was the Melvins who introduced me to American Hardcore.Buzz lent me records by Black Flag, Flipper, Butthole Surfers and Minor Threat. I was enthusiastic about this whole new world of music. And Buzz was happy to share with someone who didn't reject the music outright only because it was punk rock. Most hated this punk for little reason other than it was somehow bad, weird, and wrong in their minds.
The Melvins drummer, Mike Dillard, had personal obligations and quit. I knew this amazing drummer named Dale who was about three grades behind me in school. I took Buzz over to Dale's and introduced the two. They started jamming and hit it off.
Dale's parents were supportive and let the Melvins rehearse in the back room. You could hear the loud music from blocks away. This naturally attracted all kinds of kids, and Dale's back porch became a hang out. There was this one kid named Kurt who went on to start another well known band from Aberdeen.
The Melvins were playing shows around western Washington, and there was an opportunity for them to go on tour. Dale went to the school guidance councilor asking for advice about touring. They looked at his grades. He had three music classes with straight A's. In the other classes I think he had D's -if that. The councilor told him to go for the tour!
I went on a tour with the Melvins through Nevada and California. (I snapped the photo on their first 7 inch single.)
Everyone eventually left Aberdeen. Matt joined Mudhoney. Buzz and Dale relocated to San Francisco.
By 1988, Seattle's Grunge Rock scene started to happen. Even though they had left Washington, the Melvins had left their mark as the first Grunge band. Every Seattle band of the late '80s owes a little something to the Melvins - a band that slowed down the tempo and played sludgy riffs.
In 1990, Kurt Cobain and I were driving back from Los Angeles to Washington. We took the opportunity to stop by San Francisco and see our pals in the Melvins, and mentioned that we were without a drummer.
Scream were playing in North Beach and we all went to the show. Buzz said we had to see their excellent drummer. Scream played a great set and we met the band. Buzz introduced us to their drummer, David Grohl.
The Melvins have always stayed true to their vision of rock. It's sophisticated metal but there was a lot of schooling in Punk. And it shows. They can really get out there, but there's a complex method to the madness.
My current favorite CD is Nude With Boots. It's one of those records that I have to listen to every day.
The song craft is solid throughout. The record starts with "The Kicking Machine" that's driven by a big guitar riff. "Billy Fish" is a great song. I first heard it at a Melvins sound check in London. It's just one of those tunes that sticks out instantly.
They seem to conjure Ennio Morricone with the tune "Dies Iraea". (And the Melvins can bust out a mean live cover of Morricone's "Magic and Ecstasy" from Exorcist Two: The Heretic.)
On Nude With Boots, The Melvins have some special help. Coady Willis and Jared Warren from the Washington State band Big Business contribute the bass and another drum set.
When I say another drum set, I mean Coady and Dale play in tandem. I got to see this combination on the Melvins / Flipper tour of the UK and Ireland in 2007. These are not two stand-alone drum kits: the drummers are integrated in sync with a colossal kit unlike I've ever seen.
I've played with Crover and his drumming appears on the first Nirvana record, Bleach. He's a heavy hitter, and with Coady at his side, it's like a beast that walks the earth.
Buzz's guitar sound on Nude is a little cleaner than previous records. I can hear KISS in the tone. Buzz had an old sunburst Les Paul ever since I met him with the sticker that came with the KISS record Rock n Roll Over pasted just below the bridge. Listening to Nude I can imagine what KISS would have sounded like after Destroyer if they went for a darker vibe.
But the Melvins are unique unto themselves. They have their own sound and vision for how to rock the world. Nude With Boots is a good listen from beginning to end. It's good to see heavy rock enduring in the 21st Century.