Project Description

THE MELVINS

@ The Factory Theatre, Marrickville

(9 November 2017)

Live Review

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The Melvins

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The pedigree of the Seattle sound is a subject that has been debated ad nauseum, with no agreed bloodline ever likely to be universally accepted. The name, however, that appears on every treatise covering the issue is The Melvins. The band originally formed in Washington, sometime in the early 80s, not only provided the blueprint for everything from Soundgarden to Green River and back but is also a foundational building block for what would later become stoner metal, doom metal, desert metal and god knows how many other sub sub genres.

The Melvins’ show at the Factory in Marrickville on Thursday is billed as a double act with Red Kross. Red Kross were also an enormous influence on the music of the 90s with former members playing with bands as diverse as Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Pearl Jam.

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The Melvins

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Tonight the two bands are virtually interchangeable with Dale Crover playing drums for both and Steve McDonald playing bass for both. The difference in the sets is striking and is a tribute to the versatility of both McDonald and Crover.

Although Kross have generally been conceived of trashy power pop their set at the Factory was pure rock, despite frontman Jeff McDonald’s gold lame shirt and use of a tambourine. They are nothing if not flamboyant and the interplay between the McDonald brothers makes for great stagecraft. It must be acknowledged that it is Crover’s work on the skins that powers the whole machine and that also keeps it in train.

When Red Kross becomes the Melvins with the substitution of Buzz Osborne on guitar and vocals the show takes a much darker, more intense turn. Osborne is like some kind of alien superhero character who never says a word and whose revolutionary guitar work is truly fucking cosmic. Such is his command of the stage and his commitment to his performance, musically and vocally, the show comes off as much like some bizarre religious rite as it does metal set. The psychedelic fuzz sludge that comes out of the stacks is like nothing else happening anywhere in music. Again, Crover’s work on the drums inhabits a kind of controlled ferocity. Its like some well-trained but mongrel bred pig-dog, or maybe a young Mike Tyson. It isn’t particularly flashy and, mercifully, there aren’t endless solos fucking up the vibe of the set but the power of his work propels everything McDonald and Osborne do.

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The Melvins

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At one point The Melvins do a version of The Beatles ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand” that is so unrecognisable it sounds like they bashed Paul McCartney’s head in using only Ringo Starr. It is a thing to behold.

These two bands, who between them laid the groundwork for scores of acts that followed, demonstrate the power of simplicity and with that dispel any suggestion that there isn’t life inside the art of rock n roll. The Melvins, in particular, continue to push boundaries most other bands don’t even know exist yet. They’re so delightfully weird, but bestially intense and dark and mysterious that no metaphor would do justice to that thing they do.

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AMNPLIFY – DB