On the verge of a residency tour on which they’ll resurrect dozens of classic tracks, playing two nights and two sets in each city, it seems ultimately appropriate that King Buzzo and the rest of the Melvins take some time to release a live disc to let fans outside of that tour know exactly what they’re missing. While it’d be too difficult a task to pick out 13 tracks for a “Best of” for one of hard rock/metal’s biggest and weirdest back catalogs, this one hits some major recent high notes, resulting in a collection worth picking up for understanding where the band is today.
Released on Ipecac Recordings (founded by the one and only Mike Patton) and recorded at the Busta-Guts Club in Downey, California, Sugar Daddy digs deep, taking a few tracks dating as far back as 1987′s Gluey Porch Treatment. It does, however, rely heavily on 2008′s Nude With Boots and 2006′s Senile Animal. For those unfamiliar with the stoner/sludge/whacked-out metal legends, Sugar Daddy is a good place to start, giving a brief overview of the Melvins of now. However, the band’s almost constant lineup changes (guitarist/vocalist Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne and drummer Dale Crover have been the driving forces/only constant members since the band’s inception in 1983) suggest that claims of 100% continuity might be misleading.
The album opens on a high note with “Nude With Boots” over a crowd roar, the instruments shuddering to life. After a minute or two of feedback, misfires, and general warm-up, Crover and fellow drummer Coady Willis thump things into a sense of semblance, Osborne’s gray mane probably bobbing in time as maniacally as he delivers his vocals. Meanwhile, his guitar aches and grinds out a melody, bassist Jared Warren lithely following suit, and the double-drumming onslaught punishingly moving things forward, the vocals soaring overhead.
The feedback and buzzing flow seamlessly into another Nude track, “Dog Island”. Things get a little sludgier here, Osborne’s voice dipping deeper, the guitar and bass amping up the overdrive and distortion. “Dies Iraea” gets the same sort of fade-in treatment, double tom rolls guiding the way into the track, crushing guitar overtones forcing the issue. The instrumental track is an adaptation of the theme to legendary horror film The Shining, which itself is a version of a composition by Hector Berlioz.
“Civilized Worm” is the first showing from Senile Animal, and its achy arena rock is one of the band’s poppiest moments on the set, Osborne’s triumphant, wild howl coming about four minutes into the track. The dual-snare-roll fade-out is amazing in its synchronicity, Crover and Willis seemingly four arms connected to the same brain. The rifftastic “The Kicking Machine” follows immediately after, its stop-and-start mechanics faultless. The epic, moody theatrics of “Eye Flys” add a dash of insanity to the mix, Osborne’s insane, slashing solos hovering like a plague cloud over the masses of thuds and rolls provided by the two drummers, all while Warren keeps a slow, steady pace. Once the meat of the song comes together, the resulting warrior chant masses together.
“Tipping the Lion” has an almost psychedelic tinge, the vocals almost dipping into Western territory, and “Rat Faced Granny” rages on as well as it does on Senile Animal. “The Hawk” aches with grungy surplus thanks to Osborne’s insane power, and “You’ve Never Been Right” again relies on the dual drumming. The final three tracks take a curious turn, “A History of Bad Men” rumbling and raw, a mostly vocal, weirdo rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”, and band-name-influencing, total classic/masterpiece “Boris” from 1991′s Bullhead closing out the disc.
While no live disc could ever sate the wildly fervent Melvins fan, this one isn’t bad. It digs deep for a few tracks, hits the best recent tracks, and features a vaguely ironic patriotic anthem. Buzzo will be Buzzo, the Melvins will be the Melvins, and we will all have to either love it or stop caring. But with more consistently impressive performances like this, it’ll probably be the former.