Melvins ‘Sugar Daddy Live’ CD 2011

Melvins 'Sugar Daddy Live' CD 2011For nearly 30 years now The Melvins have existed in a bizarre little bubble of their own making. Perpetual outsiders in the world of heavy music the band have taken their own influences; the aggression of hardcore, the monolithic bludgeon of Sabbath and the insistent melodies of Kiss to create a sound so unique that they had no fixed predecessors and no-one would dare to copy them now, nor will they long after they’re gone. Even bands such as Boris, who owe a huge debt of influence to the Melvins, have taken their spirit of inventiveness to spawn their own branch of the tree. To put it simply, The Melvins are lunatic leaders in a field of one. So that brings us very neatly to this latest release, a live album no less. The Melvins have flirted with live recordings before but have never, as far as I’m aware, just gone for a straight up live set of tunes. Whereas Rush used to offer one up after every three studio albums, The Melvins finally hit us after seventeen (or so!!!).

Unsurprisingly, from an album recorded on tour in 2008, the bulk of the set derives mainly from the albums recorded with the band’s current line-up featuring stalwarts Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover alongside the Big Business pairing of Jared Warren on bass and vocals and Coady Willis on drums. One thing that is immediately apparent is that, far from being the lazy slackers their image may present, The Melvins are a precision engineered unit and all the songs are presented with inch perfect clarity and tightness. The dual drums of Willis and Crover are bordering on telepathic in their sheer technical wizardry and are so tight you’d struggle to fit a sheet of paper between them. Similarly Osborne and Warren lock straight in, not one beat or one note is dropped throughout the whole performance and their joint vocals fit together like a pair of time served porn stars weaving their precise harmonies around each other. Even the unusual and irreverent acapella version of the “Star Spangled Banner”, though delivered with humour and possibly a little irony, is note perfect!!! Tracks from “(A) Senile Animal” and “Nude With Boots” display a far greater level of urgency and vitality than their studio counterparts and long time fans are treated to blistering versions of “Eye Flys” and “Tipping The Lion” and a mesmerising and slightly scary version of “Boris”.

Sonically The Melvins have pretty much got it right here. This isn’t a pristine, polished recording nor is it a murky bootleg. Osborne’s guitar occupies centre stage throughout with a weighty amount of fuzz but a nice abrasive edge while the vocals soar atop the whole thing. It is always going to be a difficult job mixing two drummers and panning them left and right in the mix allows the intricacies to shine through but does sacrifice a certain amount of the guts so consequently the drums do lack some of that kick-in-the-nuts quality you might want from the band coming across a little thin and clattering. However the performances of Crover and Willis far outweigh any shortcomings in the sound.

The current line-up has divided opinion to some extent so there will be a certain faction of the audience that will bemoan the lack of older tracks here with nine of the thirteen tracks being drawn from just two albums. However, taken as an album in its own right and not as a gesture of fan pleasing sycophancy this is a fine document of The Melvins as they stand now. It may not be essential to casual observers of the band but for the die hard purists this is an absolute must have purchase.

Label: Ipecac Recordings

Scribed by: Ollie Stygall