Tag Archives: Melvins

Ten British Bands That Bring The Noise Rock

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GNOD

As far as genres go, noise rock isn’t the easiest one to define. Its practitioners tend to be more avant-garde and anti-commercial. They don’t place much value in being technically proficient; they emphasize raw power, not hi-fidelity. Noise rock is slower and meatier than punk, though not as heavy as metal. It has an industrial edge and can be darkly psychedelic. Lyrically, it’s often satirical, sardonic, irreverent, or off-kilter, even when the slurred or garbled words are buried beneath the murkiest of riffs (like those of Butthole Surfers, Melvins, The Jesus Lizard, Big Black, and Unsane).

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Sludge Metal: Doom’s Filthier Sibling

Melvins

Melvins

Sludge metal is an oozing, bulbous hybrid of doom metal and lo-fi, messy punk. Where doom bands like Skepticism or Esoteric adopt a slow, grandiose, unearthly sound, sludge is more visceral and ugly. The sound of sludge has gone pop a couple times, first when mixed with alternative rock by Nirvana, Soundgarden, and other grunge acts in the early ‘90s, and again when mixed with alternative rock in the current decade by swaggering proggy metal acts like Baroness. For the most part though, purer, fouler sludge has remained a niche interest, with even the largest amphibious monstrosities confined to a relatively small portion of the pop culture swamp.

Sludge often smashes noisily into stoner rock, though the later genre tends to be more straightforward in its pursuit of the head-nodding pleasures of the groove. Sludge, in contrast, generally weds a feral craftiness to its lumbering brutality. Most genre excavations trace sludge ancestry back to Black Sabbath and the slowed-down tracks on Black Flag’s My War. But the Stooges and even the Velvet Underground lurk and loom out there beyond the campfire as well, arty throwbacks carefully calculating the correct angle at which to bludgeon your brains out. Most sludge is slow, but as the list below demonstrates, it’s possible to sludge at any tempo, as long as one is careful not to shake free the filth.

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Album of the Day: Melvins, “A Walk With Love & Death”

Melvins have done many things over the course of their 34-year career from inspiring the sludge-metal, noise-rock, and grunge movements to recording a sarcastic rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with Leif Garrett on vocals. One of the few things they haven’t done, until now, is release a double album. In typical Melvins fashion, A Walk With Love & Death is no ordinary double album.

Disc One (Death) is the more straightforward of the pair. In the late 2000s, singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne complained that Melvins were too often stereotyped by lazy listeners as a slow band when they actually had plenty of speedier numbers in their repertoire. He’d be hard pressed to deny that Death’s songs veer back towards the slower end. Yet in a refreshing twist to Melvins’ usual Sabbath-smitten sound, they’re also kinda light and breezy, even lighter than the “Melvins Lite” incarnation of the group from circa 2012.

Naturally, Osborne’s phat riffs and Dale Crover’s Bonham-esque drum fireworks remain present and correct, but there’s a novel softness here to suggest the two hard-rock curmudgeons may finally be starting to chill. Perhaps the laid-back feel is thanks to latest bass recruit, Redd Kross’ Steven McDonald, who has been a perma-grinning and happy-go-lucky presence on the band’s recent tours. Either way, the overall result is the most deliciously melodic and mellow Melvins record to date.

Ever a contrary outfit, Melvins have coupled this accessible affair with another collection which sits defiantly at the more avant-garde end of the spectrum. The soundtrack to a Jesse Nieminen short movie, Disc Two (Love) consists of ambient noisescapes, spooky electronic chirping, strange soundbites, and oddball jams.

A Walk With Love & Death offers two very different walks, then. One path represents a carefree daylight stroll, the other is a mad scramble through a strange thicket. Each route is rewarding in its own special way.

—JR Moores

Meet Mary Bell, A Parisian Punk Band Named After a Very Young Serial Killer 

Mary Bell

Mary Bell by Emeric Gauquere

Mary Bell is a Parisian punk band named after a British serial killer from the ‘60s, inspired by (mostly American) hardcore and grunge bands from the ‘90s. Their music sounds like something you’d get if the heaviest of grunge bands got together with feminist Riot Grrl punk bands to form a supergroup: Imagine, say, Kathleen Hanna on vocals with Buzz Osborne (of the Melvins) on guitar.

“Oh my God, I love you for mentioning the Melvins,” says lead guitarist Victoria Arfi during a Skype call from her apartment in northeastern Paris, a few blocks away from their next gig at Point Ephemere. “They are one of my favorite bands ever. I’ve seen them eight or nine times.”

“You can’t see them from here,” bassist Tristan Bardre chimes in, “but there are Melvins posters all over this apartment.”

“I’m a huge fan of Buzz Osborne’s sound,” Arfi continues. “On this record, we wanted to get something very heavy.” To achieve that heavy sound—Bardre and Arfi—who often complete one another’s sentences, deliberately layer their instruments on top of each other, then add lots of distortion, making it difficult to distinguish guitar from bass and vice versa.

The band takes its name from Mary Bell, who strangled two little boys to death when she was 10 years old. The band is fascinated with serial killers—there are many in France, says Bardre (the band’s home page on Bandcamp reads: “We are angry children. We want to kill you.”). Arfi says she discovered the Mary Bell case in John Waters’ book Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters. “What we liked was that she was a child herself,” Arfi says. “She was very young, she had endured a lot of hardships in her very early life.” Continue reading

A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful World of Ipecac Recordings

Ipecac

Ipecac Records, the label founded by musical polymath Mike Patton and his manager Greg Werckman in the late ’90s, has one defining rule: keep things interesting. Whether releasing splendidly orchestrated albums of Italian pop, comedy collections, or Western swing hoedowns, the California-based label foregrounds its commitment to artists it admires and the infinite possibilities music offers, no matter the inspiration.

“We are not a genre,” says Werckman. “And I say this with all due respect to labels that I love, but there’s a clear aesthetic at [other] labels for what the music [will] be like. There isn’t any at Ipecac. That’s hurt us, because we don’t have a sound or a feel, really. But it’s also helped us, because it’s liberated us. For Mike and I, if we hear something, if someone sends us a record and we like it, we want to put it out.”

Ipecac’s strength is grounded in the passion exhibited by Patton and Werckman, both immense music fans with wide-ranging tastes. When it comes to deciding which records to release, they tend to go with their gut. “My greatest joy is being able to sit back and look at how many records we’ve put out—but also, [to think about] what each record means to us,” says Werckman. “Some of them don’t mean much to people outside of the two of us, but that’s OK. It’s really cool to look and be like, ‘Wow. It’s so amazing that we did this record.’” Read on to hear about some of Werckman’s favorite Ipecac releases, in his own words.

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What’s in Your Suitcase?: Buzz Osborne of Melvins

Buzz Osborne
photo by Mackie Osborne

“I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet any rock star, really.”—Buzz Osborne

For over 30 years Buzz Osborne has fronted Melvins, the mega-riffing surrealist rockers who’ve influenced everybody from Nirvana to Sunn O))). Not your typical rock star, Osborne doesn’t condone drinking or drug use (maintaining that most artists’ imaginations are hampered by such substances), isn’t a particularly happy traveler (despite embarking on frequent mammoth tours such as 2012’s ‘51 States In 51 Days’), can’t subscribe to the woolly political liberalism of countless creative-industry types and, unlike most vain and stylish musicians, sports a hairstyle resembling a dusty cloud of cotton candy.

The foggy-headed nonconformist calls from San Francisco, as Melvins approach the end of their joint tour with English grindcore pioneers Napalm Death. Osborne details the essentials he takes on the road in the first installment of our monthly column What’s In Your Suitcase? “Well, I have a Kindle filled with about 300 books. I have an iPod. About three sets of clothes. A bunch of writing utensils. Assorted toiletries. There are a few other bits and bobs in there, but not much. Little electronic things, extension cords and whatnot.”

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