Melvins - A Live History of Gluttony and Lust (Ipecac CD) & Pigskin/Starve Already (Amphetamine Reptile 7")
To be honest, I never really pictured the Melvins as a "retrospective" type band, or as a band simply content to look back upon what they've accomplished in their career. But, here we are, listening to the Melvins doing their classic 1993 album "Houdini" live in its entirety. In all fairness to the band, the idea spawned from the All Tomorrow's Parties festival folk as part of their Don't Look Back concert series. So King Buzzo, Dale Crover and newly-recruited bassist (well, for this album anyway) and Buzz's Fantomas cohort Trevor Dunn got their shit together, recorded two run-throughs of the album and picked the best of the beast. I have to say when I put the album on I was still expecting a classic Melvins put-on. Like it was actually just a reissue of "Colossus of Destiny" in disguise. But nope, it's the real deal. And it's amazingly accurate, which I guess demonstrates more than anything the band's respect for their own material, no matter how "un-serious" a group they may come off as.
The set opens up with "Pearl Bomb", unusual since that's actually the second-to-last track on "Houdini", but who says a band can't switch things up? Then they launch into "Hooch" and "Night Goat" and shit is ON. The songs don't deviate much from their studio album counterparts at all, with the exception that Buzz is still making up the lyrics as he goes. So if you learned to sing along with whatever gibberish he came up with in 1993, you can throw most of that out the window. Many of the tunes benefit from a thicker, heavier production. "Sky Pup", "Honey Bucket" and "Lizzy" stand tall in particular, packing double the proto-sludge metal weight. "Set Me Straight" features one notable change as it's now cut in half and merged with the straight-forward rocka "DCH", which sounds like it might be a cover but of what I'm not sure. The band has also decided to switch around "Cop-Ache" with the pummeling "Honey Bucket" (the former is now track six, the latter is now track 11; it was the reverse on the studio record). Either it's to pack an extra punch towards the end of the set or purely an aesthetic choice, who knows. Alternately, "Hag Me" is now the penultimate track (and slowed down to an even more sluggish degree) and leads into the epic finale "Spread Eagle Beagle" (aka the noisy track) which, surprisingly, sounds a good deal like the studio version for all its randomness. If you used to skip out on "Houdini" early before this one came on, "A Live History..." won't change your opinion on it...or any other "Houdini" tracks for that matter. It's nice to hear the material presented in a slightly-skewed format after spending a possible 13 years with the original, but this is mainly a treat for diehards and any casual Melvins fans (do those exist?) should stick with the original.
The Melvins also recently pressed up the "Pigskin/Starve Already" 7" for their two-night stand at the Juxtapoz arts festival, two versions with different packaging for both nights. Of course, both sold out in a hurry and both are now available on eBay for the low price of your mansion or Texas. So I'm cheating here and reviewing MP3s, but cut me some slack. The A side is "Pigskin" which is the Melvins (although I'm not sure if it's the Buzz/Dale/Big Business configuration but I think so) and it rules so hard I want to cry sweet tears of lead. It's a total poppy, rocky, poppyrocky song that only the Melvins can pull off in such cool fashion. Sonic-wise it's not too different from the less-experimental tracks from their Lustmord collaboration, mixed in with a bit of "Stag" and the Ipecac Trilogy. Either way it sucks that it's only two minutes because you really need to have it on repeat for about twenty times to get a handle on the brilliance at work here.
"Starve Already" is not "technically" the Melvins, but rather King Buzzo on guitar with Haze XXL on bass and Grant Hart on drums. It sounds like something from "Houdini" played backwards underwater, except it's not played backwards and definitely not coming from your swimming pool. Dig? Not as great as the first side but shit, it's done enough to get me stoked for the first new, full-on, Melvins-only, no-collaborators, balls-to-the-wall ALBUM in way too long.