Today, we (me, MathRawk and Ascetist/Psalm69) weigh in on new live recording from Melvins – “Sugar Daddy Live“, which is scheduled for May 31st release via Ipecac.
I Heart Noise / Ilya
At this point it utterly pointless to try and talk about the quality of Melvins music and their live shows – they’re one of the few consistently good bands (rock or otherwise) from the last…oh, 20 years or so. Shame, then, that they aren’t as well-known as Soundgardens and Nirvanas of this world (though it doesn’t seem to bother them that much).
And so its hard to find any faults within their latest – “Sugar Daddy Live” – a live recording that was made at the Busta-Gut Club in Downey, CA. “Sugar Daddy” is a run through 13 songs most of which were taken from recent albums – “A Senile Animal” and “Nude With Boots”.
If there’s a critical point to be made – it is that, as mentioned above, there’s hardly any old material included here (with the exception of “Boris” and a couple of other tracks), so nostalgic trip down the memory lane this is not. If you that doesn’t pose a problem, then “Sugar Daddy Live” comes highly recommended.
Also – one surprise included here is slightly out-of-key rendition of “Star-Spangled Banner”, which originally appeared only on a limited-edition 7″ from Amphetamine Reptile.
I’ll come clean from the start and say I don’t know all that much about Melvins. They sailed onto my horizon during Grunge when “Houdini” was released and I picked up their releases with Lustmord and Biafra, but that was about it. My interest was reawakened when Coady and Jared from Big Business (whom I’d liked) announced that they’d joined Buzz and Dale. It’s this live line-up that this release documents, and as a testament to their power, it’s pretty damn impressive.
Taking the tracks out of the studio mean that the dynamics can be further stretched and developed, something that the band seem to relish, taking tracks like “Eye Flys” and pushing it to over 9 minutes. “Boris” is stretched in the same manner (11 minutes), but in no sense can it ever be perceived as self-indulgent. When they let rip with “Rat Faced Granny” or “Tipping The Lion” the muscular riff-machine runs riot.
The dual drum line-up gets their rhythmic lock going in a few places and it’s quite formidable. Buzz is in fine voice, with the great support from others, especially on “Nude With Boots” and “A History Of Bad Men” which even manages some harmonies. Their drum and voice version of “The Star Spangled Banner” seems sincere enough. Not quite sure why it’s on here, though.
Live albums can often be exercises in vanity or fan-milking, but this release really puts across the ferocity of Melvins live with considerable effect. Great sound, great playing. A band really sounding at the top of their game.
MathRawk / Baxter Holland
I have to confess something up front – I’m not terribly familiar with the Melvins. I know OF them, for sure, and I have plenty of friends who would drop everything and go see them play if a show was announced tonight. So take my opinions with a grain of salt, as I’m sure huge fans would be able to elaborate on more of the nuances and details than me.
As a newcomer, then, my initial reaction to this album is that it’s just a hell of a lot of fun. The band is jaw-droppingly tight, their enthusiasm is palpable, the recording is sharp, and it just sounds like they’re having the time of their lives on stage. This certainly wasn’t the stuck-in-molasses sludge-fest I was expecting, although tracks like ‘Dog Island,’ ‘Tipping the Lion’ and ‘A History of Bad Men’ flirt with that aesthetic. Those few reminded me of either a happier Harvey Milk or a slowed-down Jesus Lizard. Take your pick.
There are also a clutch of songs here that have a southern-fried classic rock ambience, and are thoroughly enjoyable to listen to. ‘Civilized Worm’ is almost a pop song, cheery and bouncy on the one hand, but crunchy and distorted on the other. This one, in particular, burrowed into my head and refused to leave. ‘The Kicking Machine’ roars into life with a Zeppelin-inspired guitar lick and full-throated harmonized vocals, before morphing into a martial hardcore stomp. And opener ‘Nude With Boots’ gives us a faux-drum solo to whet our appetite for the Karp-meets-The Replacements barnstormer that follows.
But for those of you that might be hankering for a bit of sludge, the two longer tracks, ‘Eye Flys’ and ‘Boris,’ are swampy, menacing, and stretch time and space like taffy. ‘Eye Flys’ builds its atmosphere out of a rubbery bassline and jagged guitars before exploding into a rhythmic orgy, while ‘Boris’ is much more aggressive at the start, devolving into an Oxbow-esque vocal freakout.
So as a Melvins novice, I found this album incredibly satisfying and entertaining. The musicianship is unparalleled, the energy is through the roof, and there’s a lot of different genres at work to keep you occupied. Well worth your time.
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