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Stoner Witch

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  • Reading various Melvins reviews, it is clear there is great fan support, but god only knows what they’re driving at. Hopefully this review will make clearer why people get so excited about the Melvins.Stonerwitch isn’t a bad place to start for the Melvins. Get the song “Cow” (from Bullhead), and you can hear about 80% of the Melvins thing in one song. Get “Gluey Porch Treatments” (their first album) because it is the birth of all grunge and one of the Melvins’ greatest. My personal favorite is “Honky” — an amazing, difficult and fascinating thing. But, on to the album.Stonerwitch starts with typical Melvins: a big thumpy peal of drums from Dale (easily one of the most underrated indie drummers), and then a huge blast of Buzz’s fuzzed out guitar. A spazzy guitar line works through all the noise, and then Buzz begins growl-howling his way through impossible-to-decipher lyrics. There’s a jagged, feedback guitar “solo”, some big crunchy chords, and it’s over – 72 seconds.The next song, “Queen”, justifies buying the disc — a very heavy, downtempo thing, with Buzz howling at his absolute best on vocals and guitar. Download this song from somewhere — description can’t do it justice. This is one of those songs that gives proof to Nirvana’s claim that they were heavily influenced by the Melvins (notwithstanding that Dale played drums on some of Nirvana’s first album).”Sweet Willy Rollbar” is an 88 second, uptempo song that shows some of the thrash sensibility that is everpresent throughout the Melvins, as well as their commonly off-meter time signatures.”Revolve” was probably meant as the single for this Atlantic release (the Melvins managed to be major label for a bit befroe being dropped). Catchy-heavy guitar-bass, mid-range vocal growls, and natty drumwork — very satisfying all the way around.”Goose Freight Train”, by contrast, is utterly anti-hit and totally not what you expect given the first four tracks. The bass and drums of this song remind me of toned-down Tom Waits’ Bone Machine, with Buzz singing in a dreamy, stoned-sounding voice things like, “Let the glory boy of Mister Henry have it on rye.”"Roadbull” begins as you have been led to expect — the big, heavy Melvins sound, which cuts to a non-distorted thing and then back to the heavy guitars (Nirvana fans will recognize Cobain’s compositional style here). Suddenly, though, Dale is playing a military riff on his snare and someone is whistling the vocal line, like we’re suddenly marching with the Confederate army. The switch is neither pointless or ineffective, and the surprise of it is very typical of the Melvins. The song fades out to this.”At the Stake” is a long (almost 8 minutes), heavy drone of a thing. Prog-punk meets stoner-metal….I don’t know how else to describe it. Some might find it demanding on their patience.”Magic Pig Detective”, by contrast, will totally try your patience — the first 3 and a half minutes are nothing but spaced out guitar atmospherics/noise. People applaud Radiodhead for musical daring and innovation — they really should hear this major label 1994 release; Radiohead will no longer seem so revolutionary. The last two minutes of the song revert to typical Melvins, with a driving metal line. The interest here is that Buzz combined the two sections into one song — and they do actually work together.”Shevil” is a very atmospheric, relaxed, bass-driven song with light drums. It drones and meanders along for 6 and a half minutes. It’s tension largely arises because, by now, you’re expecting the big blast of guitars and drums….but they never come.”June Bug” totally dispels the mood of “Shevil”, opening with a fast drum and bass line that suggests thrash-punk to come, but instead a chirpy little guitar line comes along — very witty and unexpected, followed by the blast of guitars. Honestly, when you follow the logic of how Buzz puts his songs together, it’s difficult not to be impressed by his wit, sensibility and sense of drama.The last track, “Lividity”, is an enormous 9 minute instrumental. A single guitar note lingers, while a very slow, richly harmonic bass line repeats itself for more than 3 minutes before slow drum crashes intrude on the mood. Around 5 minutes, occasional voices are heard in the background, and the sustained guitar note begins to be tweaked with (variations in volume mostly). All the additions trail away at eight minutes, and suddenly even the bass line vanishes, to be filled with a swelling hiss of white noise. Then Buzz declares in an emphesymic wheeze, “What do you mean? My lungs are fine”, and the album is over.Just like that.

    Posted on December 21, 2009