Even with nearly 4 decades of history at their backs, there is a persistent enigma surrounding the identity of the trio known as Melvins. A decent chunk of Generation X would cite them as being the forerunners to the grunge explosion of the early 90s, while heavy metal trustees such as yours truly would claim them as pioneers of the drone/doom and sludge metal sub-genres. But if one were to ask the band themselves, they’d most likely self-identity as three stoners based in the Pacific Northwest with a bizarre take on rock ‘n’ roll that just sort of accidentally turned into something highly influential. Between the psychedelic tendencies that all but smack the listener upside the head and the dank, dreary atmosphere that paints their heavier material, they could almost be dubbed three actors starring in their own variety show, and this has basically been the method behind the madness that has typified their current live streaming series Melvins TV.
In contrast to what a lot of bands have been offering up in this medium since the Covid lockdowns claimed the touring racket, the format at play here functions more like an extended interview session with a side-order of live performances that come off more like old school music videos from the days when MTV dealt in such things. The total share of actual time at their instruments could maybe fill a slightly longer than average LP, but front man and guitarist Buzz Osborne, along with fellow travelers and rhythm section Dale Crover and Steven McDonald perform aptly at filling the remainder of a 77 minute program with a variety of interesting yet fairly random anecdotes and visual high jinks. Topics during the interview segments ranged from Ted Nugent’s sweaty towels, Canadian bacon on pizza, huffing cannabis spray-saturated masks (complete with a humorous demo of the act to one of their trippier anthems) to catching Cheech And Chong flicks prior to turning 13 and quips about guitar tutorials featuring Brian May, George Lynch and Michael Angelo Batio, all delivered in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.
Although the fairly short musical set that would be featured was situated between extended episodes of banter between the trio and their interviewer, the marriage of a music video visual with the spontaneity of a live performance was brilliantly realized, especially considering that Buzz and company were doing vocals while being masked. The duo of acoustic numbers was preceded by an extended, droning prelude of sludgy guitar sounds and a slow-trudging beat that functioned as the pre-show to a still image, followed by a colorful psychedelic green screen retro background and a groovy, busy cover of Buzz’s solo song “Dark Brown Teeth”, which would later be chased by the almost doo-woping rendition of Melvins tune “Up The Dumper”. Later on the band would opt to plug in to get their heavier side up to snuff, and between the five numbers that were dredged up, the classic Black Sabbath-tinged mud of “A Growing Disgust” and the classic, sludgy grower and debut album classic “Eye Flys” were the standouts, both from a visual and auditory angle.
Perhaps the only thing that stood out more than the solid musical performances and the elucidating and chuckle-inducing mixture of testimonials and antics displayed in between the former was the obvious commitment that this trio showed towards their fans. At a bargain price of $5 for this live stream, all who watched were not only treated to access to the entire show for an entire week, but also had the honor of viewing the whole performance along with Buzz and throwing questions his way via live chat the evening after the premier of the show. One couldn’t help but laugh oneself silly when the same crazy-haired ninja that led this comedic extravaganza described the music playing during the pre-show as him going for “a muffler being dragged across the street”. Musically speaking, Melvins may well continue to be an acquired taste that will fail to be shared by the majority of the music consuming public, but just about anyone could get a kick out of what’s been served up here, and with three volumes already under their belt, it’ll be interesting to see where they go with a fourth installment should these lockdowns continue into the summer
Dark Brown Teeth (King Buzzo cover) / Up the Dumper
A Growing Disgust / With Teeth / Charlie (Redd Kross cover) / The Bit / Eye Flys