The Melvins / All Souls - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Melvins / All Souls

Live in Philadelphia (2018)

live show

During their rambunctious cover of the Butthole Surfer’s Moving to Florida (tagged after a similarly spirited take on the James Gang’s “Stop”), Melvins guitarist/vocalist Buzz Osborne would dart away from the microphone, kick out a juiced-up blues riff, and then leap back to the mic to deliver the song’s next roadhouse style lyric. As he snapped out jumping riffs and words like “I’m gonna dance one-legged off in the rain,” he slurred and spit and twirled and howled and mutilated the words like they were pulled from a slimy muck. That is to say, he was clearly having a ball.

And that seemed to be the theme of the night. One wonders if the Melvins are usually having fun – Osborne is a tricky onion to peel- but it sure does seem that now, more than ever, the Melvins are enjoying being the Melvins. It’s been stated before and not to over-do the point, but the Melvins have been touring in totally different lineups from tour to tour for the past eight years or so, and
“Anything goes” seems to be the rule of the day. Boy was that ever apparent at their May 10, 2018 Philly show.

Now with two bass players, Jeff Pinkus of Butthole Surfers and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross/OFF!, supplementing Osborne and drummer Dale Crover, the Melvins are engaging in a form experimentation and boundary pushing. For one thing, it was apparent how different the bass can be. Pinkus favored and down and dirty, low thundering attack. “Kicking Machine,” now re-worked with the double bass menace, was especially a kicker, with Pinkus giving the track a John Paul Jones like smash. Closer “Eye Flys” really felt Pinkus’ addition and he provided that low, slivering snarl to the track that only experienced road warriors like he can.

Meanwhile, Steve McDonald, ever the rocker, strutted and posed and blew kisses all while pitching out platinum record worthy lines. His cover of Redd Kross’ “What they Say” was especially juiced up and snappy and even more unexpected, he took the vocals on a cover of the Stones’ “Sway.” It has been said that McDonald contains multitudes and he did indeed prove that. “Sway” walked that fine, fine, fine line between honky tonk and blues and McDonald was able to conjure that same spirit and Mick and Keith. Not many can do that.

Meanwhile, main Melvs Osborne and Crover are on fire. They REALLY seemed to be whooping it up- Osborne truly digging into his stomach for the howled lyrics and Crover just completely beating the shit out of his drum set. As always, the band kept their trademark, dare I say youthful, style humor. At one point, the drums dropped out while Pinkus and McDonald played a rising crescendo while Crover rose from the kit like a summoned genie, only to drop back down as the music faded away. This happened three or four times and was totally silly and totally fitting for these boys. A lot of hands can be heavy and savage and mean, but only the means can be heavy and savage and whimsical.

And this permeated the entire setlist, which of the 18 songs, included no less than five covers, including a choice cut of Bowie’s “Savior Machine,” likely in reference to Redd Kross’ earlier take. The band took maybe 15 seconds throughout the whole show to speak to the audience, and instead, stormed from song to song in abandon. One of the clichés with the Melvins is that everything is carefully thought out. That may be so, but this particular set list had a real sense of “let the winds blow us where they will” and that’s no easy task after some 30 years of touring and hundreds of songs. Who knows what their next permutation will be? Following off of that, that made this particular iteration that much more special. We might not see its kind again, so it’s important to live for the day. That’s what the Melvins seem to be doing, anyway.

Opener All Souls played a fitting set to kick off the evening. Composed of 2/3 of Totismoshi, the band likewise revels in slithering desert rock. However, All Souls seem to be a bit more on the metaphysical level and it was not hard to imagine a sort of mind trip whole the band played a set that drew from stoner rock, folk, and even a little Hawkwind.

“Sadist/Savant” was a particular powerful, with the band wailing on their instruments in an abrasive strike only to fold out into a trippy, space rock exploration. Unlike many new bands, All Souls felt fully formed and executing their mystic vision as their wills dictated. Between their sharp riffage and thundering backdrop, the band was not only warmly received, but seemed to suggest both an interstellar terror and peace at the same time. Now that’s a fitting pairing with the sometimes ferocious, sometimes funny headliners. Maybe call it the four-way-axis of heavy music?