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I chanced to hear this gloriously stoney heavy metal on vinyl the other night at my place of work. The listening experience was absolutely delicious, and distracted my brain from the shitty day that I was involved in. Such are the perks of working at the record store. I’ve been listening to The Melvins for half of my life, especially the old stuff and the notorious Atlantic Records trilogy, but I kind of lost interest after Honky as the band got less heavy. Houdini is a great gateway to this clan of weirdos. If you like heavy shit you will probably enjoy anything these guys did up until around the turn of the century, IMO. If you like weird shit and/or the “noise” genre then I highly recommend this band.
First of all, as you will hear in the opening track “Hooch,” it should be known that guitarist/frontman King Buzzo is a poet and lyrical genius. The chorus bellows “cuz I can ford a red eed a only street a wide a REE land. On a ree land. FIND A REE LAND!” What does it all mean!? Well friends, it means everything and nothing all at once. It means fuck you. It means who fucking cares so light up and join in the fun. If you ever start to feel like you’re taking life too seriously then plug into The Melvins. They will help you to remember that this is all a farce, and that there are no rules except for KISS rules! So yeah, “Hooch” is one of the best songs on offer here and a great opener as it plunges you directly into the teeming weirdness, no fucking about. ON A REE LAND. Dude. “Night Goat.” This song kicks my ass every time. For fans of Ministry, there is an eerie similarity between the riffs of “Night Goat” and the title track of Filth Pig. It should be noted, however, that The Melvins did it first, heavier, and better. That bass line will stick with you for a lifetime.
This brings us to one of the singles from Houdini, the crusher that is known simply as “Lizzy.” Here The Melvins administer their subtle affinity for that southern rock sound with some simple clean chords and vox, again with metaphorical/metaphysical rhetoric provided by Buzz. So it’s all nice and chill until the blunt force of the down-tuned distortion hits and totally harshes your mellow, but in the heaviest way possible with that fuckin riff. Monster power chords with a big slide up the neck for a tasty treat. Look up the video for this one and ask yourself, what the fuck was Atlantic thinking? Marketable The Melvins are not.
Next is a cover of the KISS song “Goin’ Blind.” I’m not much for KISS and I’ve never heard their version, but I can assure you that this one is heavier and probably more fun. Now then, strap yourself in, my lil loves, for the rollercoaster bong toker thrashterpiece called “Honey Bucket.” Riff after fuckin brilliant riff, man. This is also a showcase for drummer Dale Crover and a chance to break your neck headbanging in under three minutes flat. Past reviewers have said it and I’ll agree, Houdini is a bit inconsistent, but it’s not a bad thing. The first three tracks are just plain heavy, then you kinda get diverted from that heaviness with the KISS thing, then the inensity is brought back with “Honey Bucket,” but dropped again for some true fuckin sludge brutality on “Hag Me.”
“Set Me Straight” reeks of Cobain. Nothing much going on here and ol’ Kurt would soon do us the favor of blowing his brains out, thanks to that shotgun borrowed from Earth. “Joan of Arc” is stoney and doomy and “Copache” recaptures some of that thrash we were treated to earlier in the disc. “Spread Eagle Beagle.” What the fuck? Is this a ree land? I tried to buy this record (which is extremely rare on vinyl) from my friend for $100. He wouldn’t come off it.
Even if they never achieved a great deal of mainstream success, it is truly impossible to comprehend how greatly the Melvins have influenced several different genres across the musical realm. They be have singlehandedly started the sludge and drone metal genres and have proved to be a huge influence on the grunge scene (particularly with Kurt Cobain...). Not to mention I've come to the conclusion that Rob Zombie may have spend a great deal of his career emulating the rough barks of guitarist/vocalist King Buzzo...
While this is often regarded as being one of the band's most accessible and mainstream-oriented albums, it remains true to the band's often quirky style. The songs often go at a slow or mid-tempo pace with a few breaks in speed here and there, the riffs are downtuned and menacing, the vocals do a pretty good job of carrying the nonsensical lyrics, and the drums do get their chance to shine on several occasions. The album also seems to be divided into two different sides; the first half of the record shows the band's heavy, sludgy side while the second half brings in a few more experimental flairs.
Unsurprisingly, the first half is my favorite part of the album and contains many of the release's highlight songs. "Hooch" and "Night Goat" start the album off with strong mid-tempo riffs and memorable vocal lines, "Lizzy" and the cover of KISS's "Going Blind" are my two favorite tracks and showcase the band's melodic side, "Honey Bucket" is a faster track that features a nicely extended introduction, and "Hag Me" is probably the slowest song on the album with its doomy riffs and plodding pace.
As previously stated, the second side is where things really get start getting weird. The sludgy riffs still have some degree of presence and the songs are still pretty good, but the bass and percussion seem to the most dominant instruments and the vocals are often delivered in a strange fashion. "Sky Pup" in particular feature Buzzo sounding a lot like 70's Cooper for some reason. "Set Me Straight" is probably my favorite song on this side and features infectious vocal lines and upbeat guitar chugs to compensate for its awfully short song length.
And like the other reviewers on here, I must question the purpose of putting "Spread Eagle Beagle" on here since it's all pretty much just Kurt Cobain and the band's drummer randomly banging on some drum heads. I suppose it's not really terrible but it doesn't serve for much more than background music. "Pearl Bomb" also has a strange clicking at the beginning that can get annoying but it is made for by the song's sweet bass line.
All in all, this is a pretty interesting album that makes a good introduction to the Melvins' catalogue. I know I'm certainly intrigued...
1) Great guitar and bass riffs, solid drums, and cool vocals
2) Great songwriting
3) Interesting experimental songs
1) May be too weird for some music listeners
2) Why is "Spread Eagle Beagle" on here again?
My Current Favorites:
"Hooch," "Lizzy," "Going Blind," "Hag Me," and "Set Me Straight"
What can i say, The Melvins are the FIRST sludge metal/avant-garde metal out there.Take a good look at this album. Houdini has a seemingly innocent cover but as soon as you pop the CD into your Cd player, you are bombarded by pure sludge metal, only giving you 20 second breaks before the crushing comes back. I'll review each track separately.
Hooch 8/10-Dale Crover starts out with some crushing drums and 5 seconds later Buzz comes in with his menacing riffs as it continues to pummel you to death. The only problem with this track is the short length and some weird lyrics, but that's Buzz all the way. This songs lyrics are the only ones printed in the booklet
Night Goat 7.5/10- I don't know why but i can't like this song too much. It starts off with the main riff muffled for 15 seconds then goes into a mediocre riff for a while until the screams, howls, and noises of Buzz come in. It builds up slow in the beginnning and that always pisses me off. Buzz should never and i repeat NEVER scream like that under any circumstances. The riff becomes annoying and then a pretty good one comes in for 3 seconds. Don't try to get me to like this track because i don't.
Lizzy 10/10-I love this song. It starts off quietly with Buzz singing melodically, the guitars are clean and muffled. Lyrics of course and weird. It's quiet for 40 seconds and then the main crushingly powerful sludge riff comes in with Buzz singing "Give me a black one". It stops after 10 seconds and after another 5 it starts again with "Open up a cascade" It continues like that for the rest of the track. It is so incredibly heavy it isn't even funny. Well it's funny but you know what i mean.
Going Blind (KISS cover) 9.5/10-This song is so faithful to the original. It seems like the hard rock Kiss played back in the 70s. The Melvins play it better than they did. It's heavy but melodic at the same time. Dale Crover puts his own original spin on it and it works very well. Buzz can sing if he wants to you know, it's just that here on this song it's a little overdone. He takes the lyrics way too slow. Oh well this was orignally slow anyway.
Honey Bucket 10/10-Greatest song on the album. PURE CRUSHING SLUDGE METAL ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Riff after riff ripping your head off. It has Dale Crover playing at his best. Buzz kicks out amazingly heavy riffs without getting all that complicated. What really shines though is the bass. Normally The Melvins have a bad time when it comes to getting a good bassist willing to play with them. Lori Black compliments this song well with her distorded bass lines. I love this song
Hag Me 8/10- It's seven long minutes of slow drone sludge metal. The riff is played to f------ death. It is suprisingly heavy and the rhythm section is heard clearly. It doesn't show The Melvin's creativity or their originality but it gets the job done.
Set Me Straight-9.5/10-This is an upbeat rocking showing their more stoner rock side. The drumming is generic, but The Melvins are poking fun at all those modern rock bands that song almost exactly like this song. It's short and sweet. Fun to sing along with. I love this song, a Melvins classic.
Sky Pup-8.5/10-It ain't metal so what is it? It's an avant-garde jazzy type of song. It has the greatest bass line on this album. Lot's of weird noises played over and over. It's so weird it's great. Lori Black has some talent she does.
Joan of Arc-9/10-Everyone who knows The Melvins knows this song. It has eerie vocals and a great riff. This song was cover by members of Strapping Young Lad,Fear Factory, and others on a tribute album to The Melvins. I like this one especially for the ending hahaha. This song shows how Dale Crover drums like he was trying to break cement. And holy crap it can.
Teet-10/10-This is it. THE EPITIMY OF ANY MELVINS SONG. The bass line is awesome. It has a creepy jazz feel to it. Buzz is singing like he was a detective in a 50s TV show, until he starts barking toward the heavy part of the song. It's short (like many other good songs) but it is made up for because of it's great feel.
Copache 8/10- It's a little hardcore number. Has some distorted vocals and a great guitar riff. Can't Help but love it. Great energetic drumming. It's short but great. It get's stuck in your head easily
Pearl Bomb 7.5/10-A worthless track, but has an excellent bass line that builds suspense in the song. It took me a while to figure out how to play it but i eventually did by constant listening of this album.
Spread Eagle Beagle 5/10- Ten minutes of Dale Crover and Kurt Cobain pounding on some drums. What's not to love?
Overall this is a great album that has it's high points and it's middle points. Nothing really sucks on this album except Spread Eagle Beagle. Even then that isn't so bad.
Standout tracks:Honey Bucket, Lizzy, Set Me Straight , Joan Of Arc, and Teet
Housed within this seemingly "for children" CD are 13 tracks of dripping, malevolent sludge of the most depraved and sick kind. The opening drum crashes of Hooch are enough to crush most things in the general area of your speakers...I can't imagine what it does to people with headphones. Don't pretend this sucks and avoid it just because Kurt Cobain participated directly in one (or more) song(s). That would be ignorant. And also dangerous...because the contents of the rather juvenile cover (and actual CD...pink with an upclose of the two-headed dog on the front cover) explode upon you right as you push play.
Musically speaking, this is drawn-out, downtuned, "broken" sludge. I use the adjective "broken" for a few reasons. For one, the Melvins rarely use formal lyrics. In fact, the booklet for this CD houses only the exact lyrics for Hooch. And they make no sense. Neither do much of the Melvins' other commonly understood lyrics. This is the cause for the note on this site that says you can read two sets of lyrics per song. Hell, you can make up your own if you like. The Melvins once again demonstrate that lyrics aren't important, and cohesive application of ideals and beliefs through words is useless...you need to embrace the layers of feedback and bass to understand their dogma.
For another reason, this CD is really inconsistent. However, this is really the only problem with it, and that's not even much of a problem. The changing up of musical styles (as well as the fucking amazing Kiss cover) allows for a greater sampling of all of the Melvins' styles on only one CD!
The songs develop slowly, for the most part. An exception to this is Honey Bucket, which sounds like thrash with less of a guitar riff attack and more of a downtuned, bass-heavy riff attack, complete with snarling vocals and rapid fire delivery. Copache is also relatively fast and another highlight among highlights.
Each riff is methodically crafted to yield very little melody, but the melody there is is very pleasing and makes you want to listen to the track containing the melody again and again. Night Goat melts into snarling noisy feedback around the four-minute mark, fading out into a quiet oblivion right before going into a quieter beginning in Lizzy, which turns on and off from quiet bass plucking into huge riffing sections with even more useless ramblings.
Did I mention the Kiss cover? It's widely touted as the best Kiss cover ever crafted...and for good fucking reason. Uncompromisingly slow and full of the trademark Kiss guitar sections (slightly melodic but overall less-than-punchy and pretty laid back) with the trademark anguished wail of Buzzo backing everything up.
Get this fucking album, for Christ's sake. And surviving through Spread Eagle Beagle means you're ready to listen to noise. Noise the genre. Contact me for information if you make it through this.
This album was my introduction to the Melvins, and I also feel that it is an accurate portrayal of the band. Its clear to see that Black Sabbath is a dominant influence here, but comparing the band to early 80s outfits like Hüsker Dü wouldn't be stretching it. Buzz Osborne's riffs are deadly and well crafted, yet they don't pummel the listener to an unbearable extent. Drummer Dale Crover exceeds at setting the pace for each song, while Lori Black provides a low-end punch that livens up the band's relatively unique sound.
My only major complaint with this particular album is the overall similarity of each track. Each number is predictable, in the sense that this genre doesn't have much room for innovative measures. Maybe incorporating a few more instruments into the mix would spice things up.
The Melvins have composed at least fifteen albums in as many years, and are still going strong. I hope that Buzz's recent work with Fantômas, and Kevin Rutmanis' work with Tomahawk will spark some new ideas for the band, and possibly open them to a new audience. Whatever happens down the road, "Houdini" will remain a welcome addition to my collection.