The Melvins are not loud. The Melvins are loudness itself. Kicking off their tour in the cramped Blank Club in San Jose, Calif. April 11, the band ripped through energetic takes of its newest material to show how volume itself can be an instrument.
Set on the tiny stage, the band, in its four-piece configuration, was arranged like a Roman phalanx. Dual drummers Dale Crover and Cody Willis were interestingly placed in the front as the Aspi, crushing the audience in a melding of speed of light rumbling. After the coagulation of the audience had been shook loose, guitarist Buzz Osborne and bassist Jarred Warren descended from behind as pike men, budgeting the standing with in a combination of brute, hydraulic jack speed riffs.
Most interestingly, was that because all the instruments were so loud, the music seemed to melt together into a single shifting wall of mass. While several other bands have done the Phil Spector-on-steroids approach, only the Melvins seem to be able to whip the structure around with such speed, ferocity and whimsy, constantly changing and restacking the wall from a roar to a drone to snapping.
Coming hot off the heels of their new EP, The Bulls and The Bees, the Melvins ripped through the material from their last four releases. In their four-piece incarnation, they increased the speed of songs while keeping them as heavy as ever. While the newest material is mostly fast, live the songs take an almost hardcore speed, while keeping the cement bottom of the band. But, when the band shifted to "A Really Long Wait," the hanging guitars seemed to take a Goth cadence, exhibiting the band's ability to control its beastly sound with the tiniest wrist flick, no matter how massive it might be.
When older songs, such as "Hung Bunny," were dusted off, the band focused on their drone aspect. Doubling the song's time, the band seemed to be able to control the color and texture of a single note stretched across their minutes much in the same way they controlled their rapid slashing.
Due to their focus of new material, it has become even more apparent that in the face of their last "Residency Tour" they are even more interested in moving past what they once were, into something meaner, faster and louder. I hear that.
Openers Unsane played a complementary set. Likely influenced by the Melvins themselves, Unsane meshed the energetic with the loud. But, where as the Melvins were more of a monolith of pounding sound, Unsane seemed to lean more towards Flipper, in a combination of jagged, spazzy strikes, that despite the unpredictable nature, made for some extremely well crafted songs. Interestingly, because Unsane's drummer was dealing with medical issues during the tour, for the first half of the set, Melvin Cody Willis handled the kit, while for the second set, Melvin Dale Crovers smacked away. The hand off highlighted just as to how tactically berserk Willis is on the kit and exhibited that Crover is actually a freight train wrapped in a fleshy facade.
-Throughout the performance, Unsane's Chris Spencer would spit on the wall, some four or five feet away, with the glob seemingly being unaffected by gravity. The saliva would then hang on the wall for the duration of the performance, unmoving and not evaporating. Is… is Spencer actually a spider?
-The Melvins have some really neat tour-only merch, yo.
-Fascinatingly, while there were drunk buffoons at the show, said buffoons seemed to be the biggest fans of Melvins music, and incredibly well versed in the band. How fascinating, as I find that drunk buffoons at shows are usually the "greatest hits" types.
-Guess who I saw at the show? Morgan and Max of Classics of Love and Hard Girls! If you haven't yet, you NEED to check out the new Classics of Love record. I have it on good authority that if you don't buy the CoL record, Jesse Michaels himself will sneak into your house when you are not home and go through your stuff. You're never actually sure that he was there, but you're never sure that he wasn't, either.