Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Melvins
The Maggot


Released 1999 on Ipecac
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 19/02/2004ce


amazon 1:43
AMAZON 5:43
we all love JUDY 2:32
manky 7:27
the green manilishi (with the two pronged crown) 6:53
the horn bearer 2:26
judy 2:36
see how pretty, see how smart 10:32

"King Buzzo" Osborne - vocals, guitar
Dale Crover - drums
Kevin Rutmanis - bass


Buzzo & Dale have been Melvins for nearly 20 years now, playing power trio punk/stoner metal with a quirky experimental edge. "The Maggot" is one of many fine albums in their discography, I chose to review this one simply because it's their most relentlessly heavy album of the last decade or so. Some of their albums go off the deep end in terms of "sonic experimentation" (see: the difficult listening entry "Prick" from 1994) and though there is a bit of experimentalism here too, for the most part they've got the controls set on "stomp & shred" here. In terms of context, this was something of a comeback album as they hadn't done a "regular" album in a couple years and had just changed labels and bass players (yet again.)

I should hope Buzzo's "Godfather of Grunge" guitar riffing needs little explanation: he taught Cobain everything he knew, almost literally. In turn Buzzo's big hero was Black Flag's Greg Ginn (in particular Flag's "slow metal" stylings such as found on side 2 of "My War") And of course the shadow of Tony Iommi hangs over everyone who plays this style of music.

Let me also sing the praises of Dale Crover, who plays an enormous custom-built drum kit with sticks as big as your arms (while wearing nothing but a tiny speedo.) He's got a contra-bass drum (bassier than a regular bass drum!) and weird noisemakers of all kinds to bang on. An amazing & original Unsung musician for sure, and probably the best drummer I've ever seen play live.

Over the years Melvins have gone through nearly a dozen bassists, the latest being Kevin Rutmanis formerly of midwestern noise-rockers The Cows ("The Maggot" was Rutmanis' first record as a Melvin, and he's still with them far as I know, making him their longest-lasting bass player ever.) And a great match he is too! Rutmanis is another wonderfully oddball original musician, often playing the bass like a slide guitar to produce some truly bowel-rattling tones.


Tracks:

The first "amazon" opens the album with a blitzkrieg of power chordage and double bass drum paradiddley, Buzzo sing-song whining over the top like a petulant child. Seguing into the all-capitals "AMAZON" which swings the other way with titanic swagger, six minutes of music for Godzilla and Mecha-Kong to waltz on the rooftops of Tokyo to.

"we all love JUDY" cuts in abrupty with Buzzo as stoned monk echo-chanting "GOW GOW gow gow", the riffs convolute about a bit until settling into a classicly Melvinsish chromatic Black Sabb-Flag groove which rides out the last 2/3 of song.

"manky" begins with 2 minutes of what sounds like a tape of amplifier hum sped up and slowed back down (played loud it is guaranteed to rattle stuff all over your room as the frequency of the hum modulates around.) The next 5 or so minutes of the song comprise another one of those chromatic aggro-Sabb things they do so well. For elongated sections the guitar & bass simply play one note over and over, but with all sorts of bizarre proggy rhythm syncopations. Dale Crover shows his zen mastery of how to parse a stoner metal beat, and also throws in a bunch of clattery banging overdubbs as it reaches a climax. Then it ends with another minute or so of the modulating amp hum.

The Melvins version of "Manilishi" is patterned more closely on Judas Priest's remake than the Peter Green / Fleetwood Mac original. Only they add a bunch of proggy twisty turnarounds between the sections, and go for extreme volume dynamics (whispered verses accompanied by only a muted guitar, the full band roaring in cough syrup slo-mo on the choruses.) It ends in a soup of rhythmless "LA Blues" style skronk that sounds like it may be digitally manipulated.

"the horn bearer" is a short choogle of bashing metal, the verse riffs territory they've mined many times before, but the bridge section and climax a real revelation of volcanic blast-off noise where they simply bash out a 1/1 beat as loud as they can.

"judy" begins with a "techno beat" (bass drum like a metronome on the 1) and burbling pseudo-new wave funky bassline. Then a wall of guitars crash in and some kinda phased percussive sound (sounds like giant scissors snipping away in outer space.) Basically, it's an instrumental.

"see how pretty" is this album's "underwater march of doom" song, which almost every Melvins record has at least one example of (see also: "Charmicarmicat", "At The Stake", "Hag Me", "Boris", etc.) Which is to say it's basically their latest rewrite of Black Sabbath's monochord materpiece "Wheels of Confusion". Buzzo intones a slow droning monk chant under gobs of space echo while Thee Mighty Drop-D-Tuned Powerchord rings out for eternity. Then about 7 minutes in it suddenly gets faster and Buzz starts screeching "YEEEAHHHH!!!!!!" A bunch of overdubbed guitars wank, buzz and howl as the Loudest Sound In The Universe somehow manages to get even louder, before receding into a 3-note riff so repetitive it sounds like a skipping record. Then 30 seconds of silence, followed by a minute of jingling sleigh bells and subliminal guitar rumble which comes from nowhere and goes nowhere, ending abruptly. Fin.


According to prominent sleeve notes, "The Maggot" is part one of a trilogy, the sequels being "The Bootlicker" (1999) and "The Crybaby" (2000). The "concept" such as it is, is that "Maggot" is the heavy metal side of the band, "Bootlicker" is their more quirky "pop" (sic) side, and "Crybaby" is basically a bunch of collaborations with other artists. So if you want the hard stuff, basically you can stop with "The Maggot" (it certainly stands on it's own without the others.)

"Bootlicker" sounds totally different but has some fine moments, particularly "Let It All Be" which has become a staple at their live shows. However "Crybaby" is almost worthless as far as I'm concerned -- do you really need to hear the Melvins back up Hank Williams III on a cover of "Okie From Muskogee"? I think not!!! Other unnecessary collaborations include Mike Patton, Foetus, Tool, David Yow and 70's teen heart throb Leif Garrett singing "Smells Like Teen Spirit." You have been warned!

On final oddity about "The Maggot": for some reason every song on the CD has been split into 2 tracks, so there are 16 in total though only 8 songs. My only guess about why is that if you set your CD player on random play, you can listen to weird scrambled versions of the album where one song ends with the beginning of another, etc.


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