Playlist 3/3/2016

Soundgarden – Louder than Love
Unsane – Unsane
Unsane – Scattered, Smothered & Covered
feedtime – suction
feedtime – Billy
The Birthday Party – Junkyard
Melvins – Mangled Demos from 1983
Melvins – 26 Songs
Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages
Melvins – Tres Cabrones
Manilla Road – Open the Gates
The U-Men – Solid Action

Also, tonight is day one of Berserkerfest!!!

The Melvins – Tres Cabrones

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Let’s be fair here.  Yes Tres Cabrones (Spanish for “three dumbasses”) may be a new Melvins album but, of these 12 tunes, four appeared on the 1983 10″ EP, three on the Gaylord 7″ EP, one on the Amphetamine Reptile BASH 13 compilation and one on a split single with Helmet; that’s 9 songs that had already come out in some way or another.  Even if you didn’t forfeit a mortgage payment to obtain legit copies of all this music, you probably already downloaded it.

But hey, why waste an opportunity to release a new record?  After all it’s been a while – roughly six months – since the last official Melvins LP and we were starting to miss these guys!  It should also be made apparent to the casual fan or novice listener that Tres Cabrones was not made by the “official” (sort of a loose term by Melvins’ standars) Melvins lineup of Buzz Osbourne (guitar, vocals), Jared Warren (bass), Dale Crover and Cody Willis (both drums).  Instead the gimmick this time is that the new record features original drummer Mike Dillard while Dale Crover plays the bass in an attempt to recreate the group’s 1983/1984 pre-sludge style.  As evidence by their 2005 demo collection Mangled Demos from 1983, the Melvins began as a punk band and featured Dillard on drums and a pre-Mudhoney Matt Lukin on bass.

However Tres Cabrones isn’t a punk record.  Sure covers of “Walter’s Lips” by the Lewd and “Stick ’em Up Bitch” by Pop-O-Pies are fast, energetic punky tunes (and damn good ones at that!) but the rest of the record consists of stripped down heavy rock that really isn’t all that different from what the Melvins are typically known for.  If anything, it’s just another excuse for the Melvins to rock out and Buzz has no problem creating wonderfully catchy, heavy riffs and twisted little melodies that make otherwise normal, mid-tempo headbanging tunes like “Dr. Mule”, “Dogs and Cattle Prods”, “Psycho-delic Haze” and “Stump Farmer” sound weirder than say ZZ Top.

“I Told You I Was Crazy” is possibly the creepiest song the Melvins have ever done with all those eerie UFO noises and Twilight Zone music.  And, of course, “City Dump” and “American Cow” are signature Melvins sludge tunes.  The three “traditional” songs, “Tie My Pecker to a Tree”, “99 Bottles of Beer” and “In the Army Now” may be fun and funny but don’t really add much and are really just novelty tunes.  But they’re only a minute long each so they don’t ruin the otherwise excellent album.

As far as playing goes, Mike Dillard clearly isn’t Dale Crover so don’t expect that crazy Crover style with all those unique patterns; his drumming is pretty straight forward and simple.  Then again I don’t think anybody could really do what Dale Crover does; it’s part of what makes the Melvins so unique in the first place so the point is kind of moot.  As far as Crover’s bass playing goes, I really can’t tell if he’s doing anything that’s really out there or if he’s just keeping a solid beat.  Ultimately though, who cares because this shit rocks!

So there you have it; seven classic heavy tunes, two wicked punk rock covers, three fun throwaways and a cute billy goat on the cover.

I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney (2012)

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Mudhoney is one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time.  They rank right up there with AC/DC, the Ramones and Motorhead for their ability to release similar sounding, yet consistently pleasing music during the course of their existence.  Their sound combines fuzzed out Blue Cheer and Stooges inspired riffs, 60s “Nuggets” garage rock and a clever, smart ass sense of humor; the band is also known for dropping musical and lyrical homages to Blue Cheer, the Stooges and Alice Cooper among others.

The story of Mundhoney is also partly the story of independent label Sub Pop, whose own principles are rife with contradiction and whose story warrants its own documentary.  But I digress.

I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney is a pretty standard rock doc; there isn’t that much stylistic flash as it cuts between talking heads, neat performance footage and old time-y TV clips, which seems to be a growing trend among these newer music documentaries.  Overall, it’s an entertaining film but, if you already know the group’s story, then really there isn’t that much to get out of it other than a flannel draped nostalgia trip.

The story of Mudhoney is as follows:  guitarist/singer (now just singer) Mark “Arm” McLaughlin met guitarist/sometimes singer Steve Turner while the two were in noisy punk band Mr. Epp and the Calculations who were sort of like a goofier Flipper.  The two became best buds for life and went on to form Green River with guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament.  Green River were essentially just a lo fi hair metal band and, when they broke up, the “sellouts” Gossard and Ament left to form Mother Love Bone and eventually become multi-millionaire rock stars in Pearl Jam.

Meanwhile Mark Arm and Steve Turner stayed “real” and “true” and “underground” by forming Mudhoney with former Melvins bassist Matt Lukin, who claims he was fired from the Melvins for “not having a pussy”, and drummer Dan Peters; the group got their name from the 1965 Russ Meyer film.  At first Mudhoney thought they would release a couple singles or an EP, last for a year and move onto something else.  However, in 1988, their first year of existence, Mudhoney’s Sub Pop released debut single “Touch Me, I’m Sick” rocketed up the independent charts and they were crowned the kings of this underground movement/genre called “grunge.”  For the grunge neophyte, there is a HUGE difference between the noisy, messy, underground grunge of the pre-Nevermind era, with bands such as Mudhoney, Tad, Steel Pole Bathtub, Love Battery, Skin Yard and the Melvins, and the radio-friendly, “alternative rock” of Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush and Silverchair.  I suppose Soundgarden and Nirvana fell on both sides of the fence.

Mudhoney released two well received albums – Superfuzz Bigmuff EP (1988) and Mudhoney (1989) – toured the world with Sonic Youth, toured the States with various label mates like Tad and Nirvana and gained strong reception wherever they went.  Then, after the release of their 100,000 selling second album, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, the shaky financial situation at Sub Pop forced Mudhoney to regrettably leave the label and go to Reprise; apparently they would have stayed at Sub Pop had they known that Nevermind was going to be such a huge success, funnelling huge amounts of dough into Sub Pop coffers.

Anyway, the group deliberately set out to prove to fans that, not only would they not sell out to the majors but, that they wouldn’t change their sound at all.  To be sure the albums Piece of Cake (1992), Five Dollar Bob’s Mock Cooter Stew EP (1993), My Brother the Cow (1995) and Tomorrow Hit Today (1998) all sound exactly the same and just like their Sub Pop releases.  Okay, Tomorrow Hit Today has a slightly swampier feel to it.

By 1998, however, “alternative nation” was all but dead and Mudhoney saw the writing on the wall. Matt Lukin quit and the group went on hiatus.  Then, for some reason or another, in the early aughts, Mudhoney caught a second wind that paralleled the rise of garage groups such as the White Stripes, the Dirt Bombs and the Von Bondies, hired new bassist Guy Maddison, who was a nurse by day and played in the Australian band Bloodloss at night, re-signed with Sub Pop and lived happily ever after.  If you must know, the albums they released henceforth are Since We’ve Become Translucent (2002), Under a Billion Suns (2006), The Lucky Ones (2008) and Vanishing Point (2013).

People who do interviews in the movie include Seattle grunge alums Tad Doyle, Kim Thayill, all five Mudhoney members and Sub Pop label owner Bruce Pavitt.

Interesting anecdotes include:

– Courtney Love apparently seeking therapy after hearing the song “Into Your Shtik”

– Mudhoney being surprised that Pearl Jam’s road crew wasn’t full of douche bags like the one for Nirvana had been

– Mark Arm apparently dabbling in heroine and dating a stripper (although my friend Dan claims this is common knowledge)

-Mudhoney’s unfortunate meeting with an A&R gentleman from the allegedly independent Caroline records.  Whatever his name is (they deliberately say it in the movie to call him out but I just forgot) makes unreasonable demands on the group that directly influence them to go to a major label

-Mark Arm working the back room at Sub Pop and personally addressing all packages that are sent out

But the main message I got out of the movie is that Mark Arm and Steve Turner (well I’m sure Matt Lukin, Dan Peters and Guy Maddison as well) are intelligent, laid back dudes who don’t have egos and are comfortable with a modest, middle class existence provided they can make any music they want.  And furthermore, in spite of not becoming multi-millionaire rock stars, they still managed to party a lot and get chicks.

Now, I ask of Sub Pop, when are they going to reissue those goddamn Tad albums?!

The Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages

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Cover albums are usually a terrible idea.  Bands might have a blast jamming their favorite songs but they should do the listener a favor and keep it strictly in the rehearsal room.  That is, of course, unless you’re the Melvins and actually do something unique with other artists’ creations.  It should come as no surprise even to the casual listener that the Melvins wouldn’t go the standard route and just do faithful renditions of songs everybody has already heard a whole bunch of times.

Furthermore the cast of characters involved with Everybody Loves Sausages should make people froth at the mouth and rush out to get the record – or at least listen to a free download.  Also the idea of a covers/collaborations album isn’t exactly new to the Melvins.  In 2000 the group did a similar project called The Crybaby.  And furthermore, even though Everybody Loves Sausages is considered an official Melvins release, it’s a pretty mix and match affair.  Aside from the aforementioned guest appearances, various songs feature different permutations of the group; both the duel drum version with Jared Warren and Cody Willis and the Melvins Lite version with Trevor Dunn on standup bass appear on the record at various points.  The only member who plays on all thirteen songs is Buzz Osbourne.  His “cover” of “Heathen Earth” by Throbbing Gristle is actually a solo piece he made up himself in which he plays all of the bleep-bloop noise machines and which actually isn’t a cover of “Heathen Earth” at all since the song “Heathen Earth”, as thought to be a Throbbing Gristle song, doesn’t exist and is actually Heathn Earth, an album.

Going into the record I was already familiar with nine of these thirteen songs.  Of the one’s I hadn’t heard, “Set It on Fire” is by Australian garage/punk band the Scientists.  Mark Arm’s lead vocals makes the song sound like Mudhoney, which is fine by me!  “Art School” by the Jam is done Oi! style with Tom Hazelmeyer of Halo Of Flies and AmRep fame joining Osbourne on a hilarious shouting match of “Oi, Oi!” while the two sing in thick British accents.  It sounds like standard punk fair but no worse for it.  It’s the other two that bug the shit out of me!  When I checked discogs for “Timothy Leary Lives” by Pop-O-Pies and “Romance” by Tales Of Terror, both are from long out of print albums, which fetch incredibly high prices and that sucks because both songs are good!  When Osbourne calls the Tales Of Terror record one of the best he’s ever heard by anybody ever, he might as well wave his dick in my face and say, “ha ha, you can’t touch this!”

As far as the rest of it goes, it’s going to be difficult to describe the record without describing each song individually.  I know this is a terrible way to write a review so please bare with me!  The album’s “WTF?!” tone is immediately established at the beginning of the album.  After Scott Kelly of Neurosis makes you want to drink Coor’s and smash beer cans against your head all day to the tune of “Warhead” by Venom, the Melvins do a faithful, sincere rendition of “My Best Friend” by Queen!  According to the liner notes, it’s supposed to make you go, “huh?” but I can just as easily assume it was Buzz’s and Dale’s honest admission of love for each other.  Who knows?  Then the album gets kinda shitty because they do “Black Betty”, a song I’ve always loathed with all my being!  I just can’t stand that “black betty bam balam” refrain!  Thankfully the Melvins make it halfway listenable by playing the coda Motorhead style.

Elsewhere we get “Attitude” by the Kinks which RULES!  It’s probably my favorite performance on here.  They don’t change it too much but you know how in the original the chorus slows down and only gets fast in the last refrain?  Well, in this version, it’s fast and punky the whole time!  So, it never stops kicking your ass!  It’s awesome!  “Female Trouble” is a neat little treat with Dunn’s standup bass and Osbourne singing “they say I’m a skank but I don’t care/go ahead and put me in your electric chair”!  “Carpe Diem” by the Fugs isn’t altered too much other than briefly heavying up the song during the “you can’t out think the angel of death” refrain.  Otherwise the band maintain the gorgeous melody of the original, making it my second favorite performance on the album.

And that leaves us with the two longest songs on the album.  Don’t get me wrong; I like “Station to Station” by Bowie and “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” by Roxy Music.  And the band do fine versions of them; the former is turned into a heavy, sludge thing before the funky part kicks in.  I wish J.G. “Clint Ruin Feotus” Thirlwell sang in his old sleazy style, not his new, high pitch, melodic style but oh well.  And, in the latter, Jello Biafra, with his unmistakable vibrato, helps maintain the original’s creepy vibe when telling the tale of a man’s love affair with a blowup doll.  The only problem is that, since most of the songs are relatively short, placing an 11 minute song and a 9 minute song at track five and track ten respectively tend to slow up the album’s otherwise brisk pace.

Someone might want me to mention that Blondie drummer Clem Burke, former Melvins and Cows bassist Kevin Rutmanis, Tweak Bird guitarist/singer Caleb Benjamin and longtime Melvins producer Toshi Kasai also appear on the album.  They do.