There will never be a definitive Melvins live album because there has never been a definitive Melvins. While guitarist/vocalist Buzz and drummer Dale have remained the consistent thread that holds the group together, they've traversed so many lineup changes and genres that the only thing they can do for a live album is give a snapshot of the band at the current time. Thankfully, on Sugar Daddy Live, the group, which also includes Jared Warren and Coady Willis, cuts a set that certainly rivals–if not bests–their earlier output.
Throughout the disc, the group stays current with the vast majority of material coming from their last three albums. While the most recent albums have been among the most energetic of releases by the band, live, they increase the juice. The Melvins started out as a punk band and emigrated towards the heavier and harder stuff within a few years after their initial demos. Here, they retain their mid-period heaviness, but play with speed only seen on their earliest releases.
A few older tracks get reworked, as is the Melvins wont, and the band's reconsideration of the older tunes highlights both their ability to adapt the old as well as the core strength of the material on the cutting table. "Eye Flys", the oldest jam on the disc, gets stretched out into nine lumbering minutes. Almost utilizing a dub philosophy in the song's abstract, lengthy intro, the band lets doomy sounds hang in the air, focusing more on sonic texture than musicality. But, when the song snaps into its more traditional portion, the band fire up their engine into an almost '70s hard rock rumble and makes it clear that so-called "alt music" and good old rock'n'roll are really just the same thing.
Most remarkably is the dedication to performance on the disc. While Melvins albums are often very heavily studio affairs, in that the Melvins definitely seem to take time trying to get the exact recorded sound that they want, this has given them the added benefit of a very professional sound live. On tracks like "A History of Bad Men", all four members sing together, and it's downright commendable as to how in sync and pitch-perfect their voices are. In punk and metal, feeling is given more to weight than perfection, so we often excuse missed cues or flat singing. But here, the Melvins not only seem to play genuinely, but their voices blend together with the skill usually reserved for soul and reggae trios. Not that the Melvins sound as sweet as, say, the O'Jays, but the level of professionalism and practice is nearly the same. Perhaps, in another life, the Melvins could have been a barbershop quartet.
The Melvins aren't a group that repeats themselves. Because they constantly evolve, the group will perpetually face the double-edged sword of breaking ground but never being what their fans hope they will be. Sugar Daddy Live doesn't encompass the career of these four weirdos so much as document what it is right now. But really, judging by this album, here and now is the place to be...let's just hope they stay there long enough for us to get at least one glimpse of it.