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Melvins is a weird band. That's not a secret, and it's not supposed to be a surprise to anyone, they just are. Buzzo himself even said that he's not interested in writing killer riff after killer riff, he would rather play a bunch of horrible riffs that mean something to him, and make a good song out of it, than overstimulate the listeners senses with music that only satisfies instant gratification. The result is that the band puts out albums that require patience to appreciate. Almost all Melvins releases are "growers". Some people would argue that if music can't be memorable or capture your imagination immediately, then it is objectively low in quality. Perhaps in some instances, it may be appropriate to hold music to such high standards, but as a matter of fact, there is a formula out there for writing good music that taps into your brain through the back door. When Melvins play songs with all the wrong notes, there is little to be savored on the first listen. But when the combination of peculiarity and quirkiness is just right, there's always that one fraction of a second, or tail of a note, that resonates with you for a long time. When you revisit the album, you anticipate that one blissful moment, and as a result become familiar with the bits and pieces surrounding it. The more and more you come back, the more and more you listen for, and sooner or later you have every note of every song memorized, even if the songs aren't what would be called conventionally catchy.
Nude With Boots stands out here, because these "snag" moments exist everywhere, but they are neighbors with some of the most beastly riffs found in rock and roll albums of the last five years. Other Melvins albums do this as well, but there is a particular stroke of genius to my ears about how each riff is packaged and placed on Nude With Boots. The typical Melvins motifs are present on this album, the abrupt drum breaks, the slow and lopsided pallet cleaners, etc., But this album contains more than the familiar alternative elements of atmosphere that we expect from a Melvins record. This is the Melvins record that threw a party and invited everyone. There are sun-shiny bright rockers like with the track Billy Fish and the title track, and totally mind-melting headbangers like The Smiling Cobra. It would be unfair to recall only a few of these songs as having surprises, because every song has it's own personality. Some songs take me through a portal into the hearts of the deepest mountains, other times I feel like I'm in the rain, being tossed around by huge waves in a brutal storm in the ocean, but most of all, I feel like I'm in a huge party, just rocking out to some killer jams. And that's the funny part: Melvins may be known for being a very atmospheric band, as opposed to consistently catchy rockers, but sometimes the atmosphere is so intense that the only image you can paste onto the music is sweet and unadulterated catchy riff-worshiping bliss. And no other album in the Melvins discography executes that as well as Nude With Boots does.
Rejuvenation doesn't come too often for rock bands. UFO had to get Vinnie Moore to put out good albums again and Benton had to get rid of the Hoffmans with similar results. Though both King Buzzo and Dale Crover had been doing the Melvins thing alongside a thousand other projects, which admittedly did yield some classy releases but some uneven ones like the Jelvins, their rejuvenation occurred when they found the bass-drum duo called Big Business.
It resulted in (A) Senile Animal, an album that featured the band's most accessible and song oriented material till date. Though Buzzo did seem to quote his own previous riffs on a couple of occasions, the album was a total winner. With two drummers sharing part of their drumkits, going unison at times and going batshit crazy whenever they felt like, really elevated the band's material. Add to that, the dual vocal approach meant that the insane vocal phrasing just got doubly so.
Nude With Boots, the follow-up to (A) Senile Animal is precisely what a follow-up should be for a band with such a long and intriguing career. While the dual drums and the double vocal attack are both still in place, Melvins are doing a few things differently. It's back to being more experimental and quirky reminiscent of the Houdini days. They've toned down a bit on the drop-d chug and a lot of the guitar riffs and the sounds are straight out of 70s hard rock. Even their more plodding The Savage Hippy has psychedelia going on, and old school written all over it. The drums aren't as insane as on the previous album either. You do have songs driven by drums and you do have amazing interplays and rolls, but the last album had many songs ending in this mindfucking manner with drum rolls coming from two hard-hitting mofos, hard panned for glorious effect, and that flavour is slightly but definitely missed here.
I keep going back to songs like The Kicking Machine, Billy Fish, Nude with Boots and Dog Island. The rest isn't bad or anything, but these stand out clearly along with the surprise cover of the theme from The Shining titled Dies Iraea. The meandering songs towards the end mean the ones that you immediately dig is all right at the beginning. After over a month of sitting on this album and playing it over and over, I still feel the second half is weaker in what's overall a damn good Melvins album yet again.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com